The Mathilde Maersk was on a routine voyage, until a crew member spotted a floating life raft. The five fishermen had been stranded for two days, but thanks to the crew’s skill and quick thinking, all survived, and were reunited with their families.
Imagine being stranded in an inflatable life raft for 2 days in rough seas with dwindling supplies. This was the dire reality for five Hong Kong and Taiwanese fishermen whose fishing boat had sunk two days earlier in the South China Sea. Thanks to the quick thinking of the crew of the Mathilde Maersk and Captain Martin Hansen, these five fishermen have been safely reunited with their families.
It was a routine voyage between Singapore and Yantian for the Mathilde Maersk. But on Friday, the 3rd of November 2017, approximately 170 miles south of Hong Kong, a crew member of the Mathilde Maersk spotted something out of the ordinary – a brightly orange coloured, life raft floating past.
The Mathilde Maersk immediately informed the Hong Kong Marine Rescue Coordination Centre. Suspecting that some of their fellow seafarers were in trouble, the crew of the Mathilde Maersk turned around and headed back to look for the life raft and render assistance.
The occupants of the life raft were in a dangerous situation.
With sunset fast approaching and the persistent rough seas, Captain Martin Hansen, sensed the urgency of the situation. Ordinarily, the Captain would try to get the vessel’s own rescue boat in an optimal position for the rescue but the strong winds and 4-5 meter waves made this impossible.
Captain Hansen, decided it would be safer to maneuver a 399-meter vessel rather than the rescue boat, bobbing in the waves. Considering the winds, waves, vessel dynamics and the safety of the crew of both vessels, Captain Hansen skillfully maneuvered the giant Mathilde Maersk in the perfect position, positioning the life raft right next to the gangway.
“I didn’t think about the difficulty of maneuvering this huge vessel in tough conditions. It was the only option we had. It took some time, but in the end, it was achievable” said Captain Hansen.
Once safely on board, the five fishermen told the crew that due to the rough seas, their engine malfunctioned and therefore they were unable to steer the vessel. Compounding their worrisome situation was the severe waves, which ultimately flooded the engine room, causing their vessel to sink.
“The rescue was a team effort”
After rescuing the fishermen, the crew of the Mathilde Maersk provided medical assistance, food and dry clothes for the seafarers, who were grateful of the support. The fishermen were relieved and happy, but also extremely tired after 48 hours in a life raft in rough seas.
“This rescue was a team effort, where every member of the crew performed their role to the highest standard. Yes, I maneuvered the vessel in position, but the repairman spotted the life raft, the crew prepared the vessel, conducted the rescue safely and successfully and the galley crew provided food and other assistance once the fishermen were on board. I am very proud of my crew” said Captain Hansen.
The five fishermen disembarked safely in Hong Kong a few days later.
Source: Maersk Line