USS Austin (LPD 4) answered a call for assistance from the Saudi Arabian fishing boat Riviera Dec. 6 while conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf
Austin was within visual range of the fishing boat when the five crew members signaled for assistance at approximately 10:20 a.m., when their fishing nets became entangled in their boat’s screw.
"Our lookouts, Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Thomas Zabetakis and Seaman Stanley Kinner, did an excellent job this morning spotting the vessel at [a distance of] 5 nautical miles in hazy conditions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Evans, Austin’s executive officer. “Once we knew that the vessel was in distress, we relayed that to our commanders and got permission to immediately send over our Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) squad to render assistance."
After providing tools to the distressed vessel, it was determined that further assistance from U.S. Navy divers would be needed. A five-man dive team from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2, Detachment 22, was sent from USS Nassau (LHA 4) to assist.
"We came to aid Austin with the fishing boat,” said Lt. Tim L. Ferracci, officer in charge (OIC) of EODMU 2 Det. 22. “Upon sending [Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class (EOD)] Tom McCarter under to investigate, he reported that it appeared that the vessel ran over its own fishing net and it was tangled up in the props. Machinist's Mate 1st Class (EOD) Mike Manthey and Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Nate Gregrow then went under to cut the net free with a crowbar and wire cutters.”
The Navy divers were able to clear the entangled fishing net from the screw.
“The net was made out of a heavy gauge wire mesh,” said Ferracci. “After two hours, we got it about 85 percent free, at which time a nearby fisherman offered to tow the boat to shore.”
Austin, assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 8, is deployed in support of MSO. MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use