Fleet Air Arm Helicopter Rescues Seamen Off Oman
The crew of a MERLIN helicopter recently plucked 13 sailors to safety from their stricken vessel off the coast of Oman.
All crewmen aboard the tanker MV Pavit were winched off by the MERLIN from the frigate HMS ST ALBANS, (the aircraft's home base is at the Royal Naval Air Station CULDROSE) as the ship broke off from a maritime security sweep of the Arabian Sea.
The Pavit spent three days without any power, her crew were suffering badly from sea sickness, the ship was being battered by storms, and the pumps were struggling to keep the water at bay. Her master flashed an SOS which was passed on to the Type 23 frigate via Falmouth Coastguard, asking for his ill sailors to be lifted off.
“This was a desperate situation for the crewmen on board, who had been without engines for three days in severe weather conditions, and reported that several crew members had fallen seriously ill,” said Falmouth Coastguard watch manager Alan Loveday.
The “Saint” scrambled her 829 Naval Air Squadron MERLIN with the ship’s medical officer on board to offer assistance to the 21-year-old tanker’s crew. When the helicopter arrived on the scene, the merchantman’s master decided all souls aboard should be rescued as the 2,000-tonnne vessel looked in imminent danger of foundering.
It fell to aircrewman PO ‘H’ Henson from Whitehaven to go down on the wire and pick up the 13 sailors as the Pavit moved violently in the bad weather. “We’re glad that we could help the ship’s crew. They were relieved to see us and it was good to be able to get them all off safely,” he said. “The conditions were demanding; the stricken vessel was pitching and rolling in heavy seas. It’s times like these when your training kicks in and you have confidence in the kit, the helicopter and the aircrew.”
The ill crewmen were treated and all the Pavit’s personnel were transferred to their sister ship MV Jag Pushpa nearby which was coming to their aid.
ST ALBANS' Commanding Officer Commander Tom Sharpe said: “As fellow mariners, if we are in a position to render assistance to a stricken vessel requesting our help, then we will do. The monsoon-induced sea state had not been kind to the MV Pavit and with no power and taking on water, her master and the crew were grateful for our quick response and assistance.” He added: “ST ALBANS is out here as a presence to deter acts of smuggling or piracy but this tasking is just as important and can occur at any time.”
HMS ST ALBANS has no resumed her patrol of the region while efforts are ongoing to salvage the Panama-flagged Pavit.
Photo: MERLIN from HMS ST ALBANS rescuing the crew from the MV Pavit. (Crown Copyright/Mod 2011)