Man Adrift for Two Months Rescued by Bulker
On Wednesday, a 29-year-old Colombian national arrived safely in Honolulu following a two-month ordeal at sea and a very lucky rescue by a merchant vessel.
The unnamed survivor was rescued by the Panama-flagged bulker Nikkei Verde on April 26. While under way in the southeastern Pacific, bound for China, the bulker's crew spotted a 23-foot skiff adrift. They brought the survivor aboard and requested assistance from the nearest coast guard facility – 1,900 nautical miles to the northwest at Hilo, Hawaii. Despite the distance, the vessel was within the U.S. Coast Guard’s area of responsibility.
“This mariner had great fortitude and is very fortunate the crew of the Nikkei Verde happened upon him as the area he was in is not heavily trafficked,” said Lt. Cmdr. John MacKinnon, Joint Rescue Coordination Center chief. “The Pacific is vast and inherently dangerous and all mariners respect that. These merchant mariners did the right thing in rendering assistance and most mariners heed the obligation to render assistance at sea . . . out of a sense of duty and understanding rather than required compliance.”
Coast Guard officials worked with the Nikkei Verde crew to arrange a transfer near Honolulu and coordinated with the Colombian consul in San Francisco who arranged for transportation, Customs clearance, lodging, hospital care and an escort ahead of his arrival to Honolulu.
According to the survivor, he and three companions had set out from Columbia more than two months earlier; the location of the Nikkei Verde at the time of its initial incident report was thousands of nm from Colombian shores. The Coast Guard's report did not mention the skiff’s intended destination. After the skiff set out, its engine became disabled, and the four men were adrift. The survivor said that he caught and ate fish and seagulls to stay alive; the three other men reportedly perished at sea. Their bodies were not aboard the skiff when it was located by Nikkei Verde’s crew, but the survivor had the deceased men’s passports and surrendered these to officials.
The survivor told a Coast Guard interviewer that he was very grateful for the timely rescue and the assistance provided by the Nikkei Verde, and said that his faith sustained him during the ordeal.
The Coast Guard says that it is not investigating the case as the circumstances fall outside its purview.
The USCG's rescue center in Honolulu has responsibility for search and rescue across 12 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, including the Main Hawaiian Islands, Guam and Saipan. The Coast Guard maintains several search and rescue agreements with sovereign Pacific Island nations and regional partner countries.