Combined Maritime Force comes to aid of sinking tanker

A major operation was launched involving British and Japanese search and rescue ships, aircraft, and helicopters. Credit: CMF

A day-long action by the Combined Maritime Force (CMF), which patrols waters in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean to ward off threats from piracy and terrorism, ended with the rescue of 13 crew members from a sunken tanker, although as darkness fell, one was missing presumed dead.

According to CMF, on the morning of 26 June at 0237 UK time, the 6,764 dwt tanker Rama 2, which was listing, put out a mayday call, which was relayed to the UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) office in Dubai. Conditions were extremely adverse, involving “Sea State 5 and a swell with tall waves of over 25 ft (5 m),” it said.

With the Royal Navy taking a lead to rescue missing crew, a major operation was launched involving British and Japanese search and rescue ships, aircraft, and helicopters. Later that morning, the Rama 2 sank, as a rescue action plan was being drawn up.

“Merchant vessels Tortola, Soyo, and Sea Power were able to locate and assist the crew members in the area 120 n miles east-north-east of Yemen’s Socotra Island,” the CMF said.

“Of the 14 crew men in the water, Tortola was able to recover 10 of them and two were recovered by Sea Power, but two were still missing at this point.”

HMS Monmouth’s ‘Black Jack’ Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron was dispatched to meet up with Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a British naval vessel on patrol, which was said to be closer to the scene and able to move towards the area for an airborne search and rescue operation.

“Royal Navy Air Engineering Technician Stu Rogers was repeatedly swamped by waves as he spent half an hour trying to hook the stricken sailor and winch him up into HMS Monmouth's Wildcat helicopter, 140 miles off the island of Socotra in the Gulf of Yemen,” the Royal Navy said, adding that the helicopter had to fly multiple sorties in order to refuel before rescuing the crewman.

“With sadly no sign of the 14th man, Black Jack returned to Cardigan Bay on the cusp of sunset.”

CMF is comprised of three task forces: CTF 150 (maritime security and counter-terrorism), CTF 151 (counter piracy), and CTF 152 (Arabian Gulf security and co-operation) and is made up by forces from 31 member nations. “Participation is purely voluntary,” its website says.

Contact: Peter Shaw-Smith

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