Crew abandons listing cargo ship on the Atlantic Ocean

Another view of the Ultra Galaxy from the window of a rescue craft in the vicinity earlier on Monday.

A total 18 Filipino seafarers, all crew members of a Panama-registered general cargo vessel were rescued and evacuated, following their discovery in a life raft after they apparently abandoned their excessively listing vessel on the Atlantic Ocean, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) reports.

In a statement on Monday, the authority SAMSA said the rescue effort ensued from very early on Monday after an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) alert from the vessel Ultra Galaxy, in a position of approximately 60 nautical miles west of Doring Bay, was detected at 0300 local time, prompting an immediate response.

With a May Day immediately broadcast to other vessels in the vicinity, three vessels that were in the region, were diverted to provide assistance.

Three ships closest to the casualty vessel, Fivos, Rio Grande Express and the fishing vessel FV Malachite, responded to the call.

Weather conditions at the time were reportedly characterised by winds of up to 12 knots per hour, with a swell of up to between five and six meters.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority said the maritime rescue coordination centre (MRCC Cape Town) dispatched two nearby cargo vessels to the location of the alert to investigate the situation.

“The rescue vessels have successfully located a life raft in the water and confirmed that there are 18 seafarers, all Filipino, onboard. We are relieved to report that all crew members have been accounted for. A coordinated rescue operation has since ensued to recover the survivors. All crew are safely aboard the FV Malachite en route to St Helena Bay,” said SAMSA.

The Panama-registered Ultra Galaxy, previously known as Thor Galaxy and Thorco Galaxy, is a 124,56 meters long general cargo vessel, built in 2008.

At the time of its distress call early on Monday, it was reportedly en route to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

According to the authority, with the crew successfully rescued and its safety assured, attention is now being devoted fully to efforts to salvage the vessel.

The crew were anticipated to reach shore at about 5am on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, SAMSA confirmed on Monday afternoon that a set of emergency towing vessels were being organised to render assistance to the listing vessel.

“Further details would be shared as and when available,” added SAMSA.