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Health and safety

Don't give up on missing Bourbon Rhode crew, Union says

11 October 2019

Nautilus International has lobbied French ambassadors to the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, urging the French government to continue search and rescue (SAR) operations for the missing master and crew of tug supply vessel Bourbon Rhode.

The tug capsized in the Atlantic on 26 September 2019, in adverse weather conditions associated with the category 4 hurricane Lorenzo.

SAR efforts were scaled back this week for reasons that were not explained.

It was reported that the four life rafts onboard were successfully launched and therefore it is highly likely that the remaining crew are still alive waiting and hoping to be rescued.  

'We urge the French Government to do everything within its power to ensure that the search for the seafarers continue,' Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said.

Search operations have so far found three survivors, as well as the bodies of four seafarers. Seven other crew members are still missing.

The Luxembourg-flagged Bourbon Rhode is owned by French company Bourbon Offshore.

According to Ukrainian news website Ukrinform on Wednesday 9 October, Bourbon CEO Gael Bodenes promised not to stop the search and rescue operation and to provide full support to the families of the rescued, deceased and missing sailors.

In his statement Mr Bodenes said: 'Our focus as a company is both the search and rescue operations and also supporting the crewmembers' families in any way we can, through this ordeal.

A press release by Bourbon on Monday 7 October, said that the SAR organised by the Regional Operational Center of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) West Indies-Guyana, included the tug supply vessel Alp Striker and all merchant vessels in the area mobilised to keep a look out.

The search had also previously included a French Navy frigate with helicopter, French Navy Falcon 50 jets, the US Coastguard and a plane from the US National Hurricane Center.

Onboard the vessel were 14 crew members. A Croatian master, 11 Ukrainian seafarers, a Filipino seafarer and a South African seafarer.

Nautilus is supporting efforts to continue SAR by the Seafarer’s Union of Croatia, a sister union in the Nautilus Federation, and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

The families say the search and rescue mission only lasted seven days and have taken hope from a potential sighting in the early hours of Monday 7 October.

Two seafarers onboard the Alp Striker reported signals that they interpreted as coming from a distress flare.

The vessel set a course for the origin of the signal, in coordination with CROSS, which called on three additional commercial vessels to change course and head to the area. The search involved the use of drones and received air support from a US coastguard Hercules C-130. Nothing was found.

The families of the missing said that the three seafarers who were found alive were in a life raft, and hope that means the seven other crew members also have a good chance of being alive

'We cannot stop looking for them as long as there is hope that they can be saved,' says the message on their CrowdFunding page, which has been set up to collect funds to continue the search with whatever means needed.

The families have started a petition for the SAR mission to be continued which has more than 38,000 signatures to date.

The families have also created a Facebook Group to collect Information about the sunken ship and lost crew.

At the time of the incident, the Bourbon Rhode was 1,200 nautical miles off the coast of the island of Martinique and 60 nautical miles south east from the eye of category 4 hurricane Lorenzo, when the master asked for help due to water ingress.



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