On September 13th 2020, Seaspan’s 8500TEU container vessel COSCO Malaysia, under the Command of Capt. Rusu Bogdan Drago, carried out a dramatic rescue at sea. Four US nationals were on board a disabled sailing yacht, which was foundering in gale force weather conditions caused by Tropical Storm Sally.
The US Coast Guard & Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Miami requested assistance from COSCO Malaysia, which was about 24 nautical miles (NM) from the distressed yacht. The Master immediately discussed a plan with key senior staff for the impending rescue, and altered course toward the last known position of the stricken yacht.
While the casualty was still out of visual range, radio communication between the USCG Rescue Helicopter and the yacht indicated that the boat was flooding due to high waves entering through hatchways. All four persons on board were stated to be extremely fatigued and dehydrated, and urgent evacuation was required for one individual, who was very ill. The status of the yacht itself was also cause for concern: it was low on fuel, neither its bilge pump nor diesel generator were working, the water level inside was about to reach the batteries, and she was in immediate danger of losing propulsion completely.
An attempt by the USCG Rescue Helicopter to deploy one bilge pump to assist to take out water failed. COSCO Malaysia was advised that the USCG Rescue Helicopter was also low on fuel and would be unable to return for at least two hours after refueling.
COSCO Malaysia sighted the yacht at about 1NM. Approaching the yacht with skillful ship handling in the 4 meters high swell, 40 knots wind speed, while rolling moderately, the Master successfully made a lee for the yacht. After tying up the boat to the ship, the rescue work commenced. All 4 persons were successfully evacuated from the yacht using ship’s port side pilot access door. They were immediately taken to the ship’s hospital and provided medical assistance, warm clothing, and hot beverages.
The yacht was cast off and left adrift since she was foundering and appeared very likely to sink. USCG were informed by the Master about the successful rescue and the derelict yacht. COSCO Malaysia then proceeded to her destination of Tampa, Florida, where all four persons safely disembarked from the vessel.
Acting to save lives is the highest calling of Maritime Law; we salute our crew’s skill in hard work in completing this effort successfully and safely, and wish the best to our new friends.