All 19 crew members of a Greek bulk carrier, the ANTAIOS, that suffered grief on the Atlantic Ocean at the weekend have been safely evacuated and are currently in Cape Town, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed on Tuesday.
The crew was plucked to safety from the vessel after it had sent out a ‘May Day’ call while in international waters on Sunday following to its bulk carrier, loaded with maize reportedly from Argentina to Saudi Arabia, suffered both fire and water flooding damage in its engine room.
According to SAMSA, the incident occurred while the ANTAIOS was cruising on the Atlantic Ocean, some 860 nautical miles west of Cape Town. A distress call for assistance was picked by a Japanese ore carrier, the NSU INSPIRE, which relayed the call to SAMSA’s Cape Town based Centre for Sea Watch and Response.
“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.
“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,” SAMSA said.
“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.
On Tuesday afternoon SAMSA confirmed that the crew had safely arrived in Cape Town and that a salvage operation was already underway to retrieve the stricken vessel.
“As at 12pm today, the (Antaios) crew are safe at a hotel waiting on the arranged flights to be finalized and all should have departed by Sunday. (Their stricken) vessel is currently under tow by the salvage tug Smit Amandla, and at the time of the last position update, it was approximately 780 nautical miles from Cape Town.”
SAMSA further indicated that with the crew safe and a salvage operation underway, the national maritime authority would only monitor the towing operations.