Ship-owning and managing company Crowley informs that a Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessel under its management has rescued 11 fishermen from a sinking vessel in the South China Sea.
While transiting toward Subic Bay, Philippines, on July 19, USNS Impeccable’s (T-AGOS 23) on-watch lookout spotted lights, debris floating in the water and numerous distressed mariners struggling to stay afloat and waving from atop the wheelhouse of a nearly submerged ship located approximately 100 nautical miles northwest of Cape Bolinao, Philippines.
Impeccable’s master, Capt. Robert Wiechert, then quickly maneuvered the vessel toward the stricken craft, and assessed that immediate assistance was required to save the stranded fishermen. He promptly gave the order to deploy Impeccable’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) / Fast Rescue Boat to save the sailors from the sinking vessel, which had been adrift for five days.
The RHIB, manned by Chief Mate Wayne Robinson and Able Bodied Seaman Clifford Blackmon, made three trips to the sinking vessel and successfully rescued all 11 distressed mariners. Within minutes of the final rescue trip, the derelict vessel completely sunk.
Once the mariners were safely aboard Impeccable, each was examined and treated for non-life-threatening injuries by the ship’s medical department representative. They were also given the opportunity to take showers and were offered clean clothes, food and water for the one-day transit to port, where they were transferred ashore to the Philippine Coast Guard.
"This was a true team effort … [with] civilian mariners, security detachment, military detachment and SURTASS (Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System) operations center personnel working together to achieve an efficient rescue of all 11 fishermen. This was a prime example of team work between Crowley and military personnel working towards a common goal," said Capt. Wiechert.
“Bravo Zulu (well done) to Captain Robert Weichert and the crew of USNS Impeccable for your superb performance in recovering 11 fishermen from a sinking vessel,” said Capt. Paul Harvey, USN commodore, Military Sealift Command Far East. “Your officers’ and crew’s professional actions assuredly saved their lives. The events conducted at sea displayed a superb performance of seamanship; especially noteworthy was the flawless coordination between the ship’s crew and [the] embarked security team.”
“The officers and crew of the Impeccable are fully trained and prepared to respond to a variety of marine incidents,” said Mike Golonka, vice president, Crowley government services. “In addition to meeting defined regulatory training requirements, crewmembers participate annually in company-sponsored safety programs, designed exclusively for mariners. The safety program provides training in survival tactics, shipboard firefighting, medical incidents and other relevant topics designed to give mariners the skills they need to survive in emergency situations such as this.”