UK Navy Rescues Five from Sinking Tug
Five mariners were rescued by the crew of a U.K. Royal Navy patrol ship after their tug started to sink in rough seas last week in the Caribbean.
The oceangoing tug began taking on water after suffering an engine failure some 20 miles west of Sint Maarten. The vessel's crew sent out a distress call around 1 p.m. on Friday and took refuge on the large sand barge their vessel had been towing.
Patrol ship HMS Medway, the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the region, was slightly more than a dozen miles away and promptly responded to the Mayday call. After consulting with the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Martinique, the ship altered course and increased speed, reaching the stricken tug and barge in just over 20 minutes.
Weather on scene was warm but squally with gusts of 30 knots, heavy showers and waves of up to 5 feet, the Navy said. Medway’s rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) was launched with boatswain Petty Officer (Seaman Specialist) Sarah Griffiths in charge to rescue the seafarers in distress.
“Whilst we were cautious as we made our approach to the barge and tug we were able to reassure the crew and transfer them clear of the barge safely. They were hugely grateful,” said Griffiths, who was the first person to reach the stricken vessel.
The five uninjured tug crew members were transported back to HMS Medway before being handed over to a search and rescue boat from Anguilla, which arrived as the rescue ended.
“The whole ship’s company leapt into action as soon as we made the decision to respond,” said Lieutenant Commander Carla Higgins, Medway’s Executive Officer in temporary command of the 2,000-tonne patrol ship.
“The swift thinking and actions of the team were fantastic, and we were thankful to be conducting routine maritime security operations in the area to become the on-scene commander working with the local authorities and assist the crew to safety.”
The stricken tug was low in the water but had not sunk when Medway left the area to resume its scheduled patrol.
HMS Medway is a 90.5-meter Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessel that operates across the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic year round, supporting British Overseas Territories in the region, providing assistance in the wake of natural disasters and working with regional authorities to tackle the illegal narcotics trade.