Pretoria: 05 December 2016
The entire crew of a bulk carrier that sent a distress call after reportedly suffering engine fire damage off the Atlantic Ocean has been rescued and is currently on its way to Cape Town, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reported in Pretoria on Monday.
The 19 crew were plucked off the stricken Greek bulk carrier ANTAIOS by an ore carrier, the NSU INSPIRE – and now currently on their way to Cape Town Harbour – after their vessel reportedly experienced a fire and flooding in the engine room while sailing from Argentina to Saudi Arabia.
In a statement on Monday, SAMSA said its Centre for Sea Watch and Response based in Cape Town had received a satellite phone call from the NSU INSPIRE – a 330 meter Japanese ore carrier – reporting a distress call from the ANTAIOS.
“The 170 meter ANTAIOS had reportedly experienced a fire in the engine room while sailing from Argentina en route to Saudi Arabia loaded with grain. The fire caused some damage which led to flooding in the engine room. When the flooding became uncontrollable, the captain decided to make a distress call and order the crew to abandon ship,” said SAMSA.
SAMSA reports that the dramatic incident apparently occurred in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, in an area some 860 nautical miles west of Cape Town and an area the maritime authority said was well outside of the striking distance of shore-based rescue facilities.
“The mayday call was picked by the NSU INSPIRE which was sailing from Brazil to Singapore and China. The captain of the NSU INSPIRE immediately informed the SAMSA CSWR and proceeded to the rescue. In the meantime, CSWR immediately initiated a mayday relay broadcast requesting vessels in the vicinity to proceed to the stricken vessel and render assistance.
“The response to the broadcast was immediate and a total of 24 merchant ships called SAMSA’s CSWR offering their assistance, some were as close as 80 miles from the scene and others as far off as 600 miles.
“Six ships closest to the stricken ANTAIOS were diverted by the MRCC to the position in case the NSU INSPIRE needed help in rescuing the crew.
“Happily, by 20h39 MRCC was informed by the captain of the NSU INSPIRE that his ship had arrived on-scene and had commenced recovering the ANTAIOS crew from the two lifeboats they had escaped to. All 19 crew members were plucked to safety on board the giant 330 meter ore carrier and are currently on the way to be dropped off in Cape Town from where they will be repatriated,” SAMSA said.
SAMSA also confirmed that a local shipping agency had since been appointed by the stricken vessel owners to take care of the crew once they arrive in Cape Town. The crew is expected in Cape Town and about midnight on Monday.