MV OCEAN GLORY, At Sea—Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) voyage-charter MV OCEAN GLORY rescued an Indonesian fisherman in the vicinity of the Straits of Bali while in route to Banyuwangi, Indonesia, Aug. 14.
“I stepped onto the bridge fully expecting to take a routine arrival a few hours later into the Port of Tanjungwangi, Indonesia,” said Capt. Christopher Hill, merchant marine and master of the OCEAN GLORY. “Instead, the officer-of-the-watch reported a man standing atop an overturned, outrigger fishing boat.”
The fisherman and the remains of his boat were caught in a strong current and were quickly being swept out of the Straits of Bali and into the open, unfrequented Indian Ocean. “Later, I would learn that the small boat had capsized the previous day in a squall and that the lone fisherman had been adrift in very rough seas for about 20 hours before OCEAN GLORY’s arrival on scene,” said Hill.
The OCEAN GLORY notified the Indonesian Coast Guard and while waiting on station for confirmation of Coast Guard assistance, the OCEAN GLORY attempted to pass a lifejacket via ship’s heaving line to the distressed fisherman.
In the process of passing the heaving line and while waiting for local Coast Guard to arrive, it became apparent that the fisherman could not wait to be rescued, according to Hill.
“He lost his footing on the upside-down boat and took to the water holding only the bitter end of the ship’s heaving line,” said Hill. “The ship’s pilot ladder was quickly rigged and all hands on deck worked together and with quick precision to drag the fisherman at the end of the heaving line alongside the ship’s hull thence to the ladder.”
Upon reaching the ladder, the man in the water let go of the heaving line and began to climb. After so many hours stranded at sea and as soon as he was dragged the last few steps up and onto the decks of the OCEAN GLORY he collapsed and was quickly taken to medical.
“While being treated for exhaustion and dehydration by ship’s medical officer, he tearfully thanked everyone around him without knowing or needing a word of English and insisted, even in his weakened condition, on shaking everyone’s hands… he was so thankful to be alive,” said Hill.
An Indonesian ambulance and medical team came aboard as soon as the gangway was down in Tanjungwangi. The shoreside medical team transported the survivor to the hospital for further medical treatment.
“But not before the ship’s crew and on-board members of the U.S. Army passed the hat,” said Hill. Through donations, they provided the unexpected shipmate with shoes, clothes and money to help speed his recovery and his return home.
The Ocean Glory, a commercial, multi-purpose, heavy-lift ship from Intermarine, had been sailing under a MSC charter for the previous few months in support of Pacific Pathways 16-2 (PP16-2), a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) mobility operation that supports three USARPAC exercises and links them into a single operation by using a single MSC commercial vessel to carry a designated task force and their force package equipment for the entire duration. PP16-2 was supporting exercises' Hanuman Guardian in Thailand, Keris Strike in Malaysia, and Garuda Shield in Indonesia.
PP16-2 was a combined operation between the U.S. Army and each of the armed forces of Thailand, Malaysia and with Indonesia where the last of the U.S. Army’s equipment was to be backloaded for return to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Tacoma, Wash.
MSC operates approximately 115 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.