Fishing research vessel with SA group sinks off Gough Island; crew evacuation underway – SAMSA

Photo of the Geo Searcher fishing research vessel, courtery of MarineTraffic.com

This news story has been updated with new information from SAMSA

Pretoria: 16 October 2020

The South African Maritime Authority (SAMSA) has confirmed the sinking of a fishing research vessel named the Geo Searcher off the Gough island on Thursday afternoon while sailing with 64 crew on board, a majority South African.

“All 62 crew have safely been recovered from the vessel and are now on Gough Island  with one crew member having sustained slight injuries,” reported SAMSA in a media statement on Thursday evening.

On Friday morning SAMSA added: “”A multi-organisational effort to collect the 62 seafarers of the now sunken, Belize registered vessel, GEO SEARCHER, is underway.

“SAMSA’S MRCC, Department of Environmental Affairs (SA AGULHAS II), and AMSOL along with the representatives and owners of the stricken vessel, have collaborated in arranging for the SA Research vessel SA AGULHAS II to sail this morning (Friday 16th Oct) for Gough Island in the south Atlantic Ocean to collect the seafarers who had abandoned their vessel after it had reportedly struck a rock and started taking on water.

“The stricken seafarers are 47 South African, 3 Portuguese, 1 British,2 Ghanaian, 1 Indonesian, 4 Namibian and 2 Tristan citizens,”said the updated statement.

According to SAMSA, the Geo Searcher had been within a mile off Gough Island when it experience problems and took on water after it reportedly collided with underwater rocks.

SAMSA’s Sea Watch and Rescue center in Cape Town reported that: “At 15/1212LT, MRCC (Maritime Rescue and Coordinating Centre) received a call from a vessel representative in Cape Town advising of a fishing vessel ‘GEO SEARCHER’ / V3WL8. Flag: Belize, which had hit a rock in the morning and started taking in water, and that crew was abandoning the vessel. The vessel was 0.8 nautical miles (NM) north west of Gough Island as per position provided. There was 62 crew on-board the vessel.

The centre immediately sought to mobilise other sailing vessels within the vicinity of the accident, but this was eventually called off after crew of the sunken vessel were reported to have safely abandoned it.

The MFV Geo Searcher off Nightingale Island on 19 September 2020 prior to its accident and sinking on Thursday 15October after reportedly hiting a rock off Gough Island. (Photo courtersy of Tristan da Cuhna News)

According to MarineTraffic, the sunken vessel was a 69.2 meters long and 12.8 meters wide research/survey vessel built in 1982, with a carrying capacity of 1263 t DWT.

On Friday, SAMSA said: “”The SA AGULHAS II is expected to take about three (3_ days to reach the island, if weather conditions allow. The vessel is carrying two helicopters onboard which will greatly assist in the transfer of the stricken seafarers from the island to the vessel. It is expected that the vessel will then make its return voyage arriving by possibly next week Friday or Saturday.

SA Agulhas II

“The South African search and rescue region covers approximately 28 million km² of ocean stretching half way across to South America and half way to Australia and includes the Antarctic area up to the South Pole. The area is one of the biggest regions in the world and covers some of the most treacherous seas on the planet.

“The coordination and collaboration efforts between SAMSAs’ MRCC and many other organisations deliver the service to seafarers in peril on our seas. Limited resources and the vastness of the area creates challenges but with these efforts, seafarers can rest assured that every possible effort will be made to render them the lifesaving service they may require.”

End