The 73.5-meter Amels M/Y Plvs Vltra has rescued 10 crewmembers from a sinking ship after responding to a Mayday call. Delivery captain Martyn Walker said survivors were treading water for at least two hours and exhausted when they were pulled from the water.
About 35 nautical miles off the Oman coast in the early morning of June 20, cargo ship Pioneer Star sank in the Arabian Sea, likely en route from the Persian Gulf. The incident report from M/Y Plvs Vltra states that “the vessel broke in half due to bad weather and possible overloading of cargo.”
The second officer on board Plvs Vltra received the Mayday call at approximately 5:20 a.m, followed by a relay call from M/V Rudolf. The yacht was 12 nautical miles northwest of the location and Walker was called to the bridge and was in communication with Rudolf, according to the incident report.
“Rudolf said it was responding. I said I’ll keep going to the Suez if they were going to it (Pioneer Star),” Walker says. “Five minutes later, the ship wasn’t on the radar anymore. It just disappeared.”
The yacht altered course to head to the area. Plvs Vltra crewmembers were mustered and prepped based on the given information.
“The swell was big, and we had 35 knots of wind. It wasn’t good conditions,” Walker says. “That’s the first time we’ve been in that situation.” He told the crew to make sure everyone had a lifejacket on and they’d have to “play it by ear.”
When they arrived at the scene, it was clear that the cargo ship had sank and the crew managed to deploy two life rafts and a lifeboat that was severely damaged. At first sight, the yacht crew could see a few Pioneer Star crew in the raft and one clinging to the lifeboat. The rest of the crew were dispersed in the vicinity — one had a life jacket on and was in the diesel, some without a lifejacket, and three were wearing immersion suits. There was a large diesel slick in the area about a quarter of a mile wide.
“A wave would wash them onto the stern, and the deck crew and security were tied to the back of the boat and were taking them up to the owner’s aft deck. They were pretty freaked out,” Walker says. “The boat was completely gone by the time we arrived and there wasn’t as much debris as I expected.”
Plvs Vltra deployed lookouts on all decks and set up a medical station on the owners’ deck aft. Embarkation ladders were deployed on both sides, and they used heaving lines to cast out and pull survivors toward the boat, the report says.
Over the next two and a half hours, they made their way through the wreckage picking up those in the water, which proved to be rather treacherous at times with waves breaking over the stern and sides. Plvs Vltra rescued 10 of the 19 crew and M/V Rudolf picked up the remaining nine from the rafts and lifeboat; all are Syrian nationals.
From the cargo crew going in the water to when Plvs Vltra arrived, Walker estimates it was about an hour and they were treading water for two hours. The last person they picked up, he estimates, was in the water for two and a half hours, and they administered oxygen to four of the crew and the rest were okay.
“I would say, without sounding too dramatic, [that] some of those lads we had to administer oxygen to … were minutes away from drowning.” Walker says. “They had no energy; they were exhausted. When they were on the stern platform, they couldn’t move.”
He told his two main crew to treat them as they would like to be treated in that same situation — feeding them several meals, getting them showered to get the diesel off, and laundering their clothes.
“All survivors were taken up to the owners’ deck, treated for shock, seawater/diesel inhalation, and any cuts and scrapes endured in the incident,” the report states. “Dry clothes and blankets were provided, along with supplies, water, cigarettes, and warm meals were provided too.”
Once all were on board, Plvs Vltra proceeded slowly toward shore while awaiting instructions for disembarking the survivors and diverted to Duqm, Oman, to drop them off. Oman Air Force sent a pilot boat to pick them up. After 27 hours, Plvs Vltra was on their way to Greece again.