USCG: Container Ship "Rich Forest" Remains Afloat, West of Guam, Salvage Effort Underway
Wednesday, January 22 2014 @ 09:36 AM EST
Contributed by: Don Winner
During the morning of January 20, 2014, Coast Guard Sector Guam received a report from the owner of the vessel RICH FOREST that it was taking on water approximately 420 nautical miles west of Guam.
The RICH FOREST is a 500-foot, Panama flagged, container ship with 24 Chinese nationals aboard. The vessel was loaded with timber en route China from Solomon Islands. The vessel reportedly was taking on water in the engine room and pumps were not able to keep up with the rate of flooding. The RICH FOREST experienced 13 foot seas and 20 to 30 knot winds.
Sector Guam contacted Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) vessels, diverted Coast Guard Cutters (CGC), and requested a Department of Defense aircraft to assist the distressed vessel. Four AMVER vessels (C. S. SUNSHINE, ANDROMEDA VOYAGER, CORONA JOYFUL, and ANTONIS I) agreed to divert with arrival times ranging from one to 14 hours.
CGC ASSATEAGUE launched from Guam with a 27 hour transit time and CGC SEQUOIA diverted from Saipan with 40 hours until arrival. A fixed wing aircraft from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan was identified to support the search and rescue mission.
During the afternoon of January 20, C.S. SUNSHINE (685-foot, Panama flagged, bulk carrier) arrived on-scene with the RICH FOREST. Shortly after the C.S. SUNSHINE’s arrival, the master of the RICH FOREST made the decision to abandon ship into the vessel’s two 24-man life rafts. C.S. SUNSHINE was able to safely keep station and embark all 24 crewmembers from the RICH FOREST life rafts. Onscene conditions were reported to be 13 foot seas with 20 to 30 knot winds, during the rescue. C.S. SUNSHINE planned to keep the rescued crew aboard until the ASSATEAGUE arrived in the area. Safety Broadcasts were made advising mariners of the adrift vessel.
On the afternoon of January 21, ASSATEAGUE joined the C.S. SUNSHINE and RICH FOREST. ASSATEAGUE was able to provide Sector Guam with an on-scene assessment of the current situation. ASSATEAGUE reported that the RICH FOREST remained afloat, despite the appearance of the stern riding lower than normal. Weather conditions subsided to five foot seas with an occasional eight to 10 foot and 15 knot winds.
Sector Guam discussed potential courses of action with the vessel owner, both the Masters of the C.S. SUNSHINE and RICH FOREST, and responding CGCs. The vessel owner is working to establish plans for the vessel’s salvage.
ASSATEAGUE will remain on-scene with the C.S. SUNSHINE until the SEQUOIA’s projected arrival on tomorrow morning. If weather conditions are conconducive for the safe transfer of personnel, the 24 survivors will be transported to the SEQUOIA.