One Dead, Five Medevaced in Incident Aboard Giant Heavy Lift Ship

An SAAF Oryx helicopter lands aboard the 90,000-ton FPSO P-70, which is under way as cargo aboard the heavy lift ship BOKA Vanguard (NSRI)

Published Jan 8, 2020 5:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday morning, multiple South African rescue agencies responded to a request for assistance from the heavy lift ship BOKA Vanguard, which reported a fatal accident on board. 

At about 0930 hours on Tuesday, South Africa's Marine Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) called up the Sea Rescue South Africa (NSRI) Durban station and the South African Air Force with a request for assistance. The agencies were tasked with organizing a rendezvous with the Boskalis heavy lift ship BOKA Vanguard, which was approaching Durban. In an unspecified incident, five Brazilian personnel on board the ship had fallen ill and a sixth had been killed, according to Boskalis. 

MRCC arranged for an EMS duty doctor to provide medical advice to the ship’s medics while the ship diverted towards Durban and closed the distance to shore. A South African  Air Force helicopter was tasked to reposition to Durban from Port Elizabeth. A second helicopter, an SAAF Atlas Oryx, was made ready at Durban while the ship approached.

At 1640 hours, the sea rescue boat Alick Rennie launched from the NSRI Durban station with two paramedics on board. The Rennie was tasked to stand by near the Vanguard during a helicopter medevac in case more assistance was needed. 

At 1730 hours, both helicopters departed to rendezvous with the ship. Upon meeting the Vanguard at a position about 28 nm off the coast of Durban, the Oryx landed on the helicopter pad on the Vanguard's cargo, a giant FPSO. 

The second helicopter and the Alick Rennie stood by while paramedics provided care for the five patients and transferred them to the Oryx. At the master's request, the body of the deceased Brazilian national remained on board the ship. 

At the time of the medevac, one of the patients was in critical condition and four were stable. Medical treatment continued during the airlift back to a hospital in Durban. According to the NSRI's Kellerman, all five patients are now in stable condition and they are recovering in the hospital.

According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, Petrobras has identified the cause of the illness as ethyl alcohol ingestion.

The BOKA Vanguard is the largest semisubmersible vessel of her class. She is perhaps best known for her role in assisting with repairs to the cruise ship Carnival Vista after a drydock failure at a Caribbean shipyard last year. 

In November, Boskalis signed a contract to transport a 91,000 ton FPSO from China to Brazil aboard the BOKA Vanguard, marking a new record for the ship. Brazilian media have identified her cargo as the brand new Petrobras FPSO P-70, which will be installed at an oil field in the offshore Santos Basin.

As of Wednesday night, the Vanguard was under way once more off Port Elizabeth, South Africa, making nine knots and bound for Rio de Janiero. She is scheduled to arrive on January 23.

A similar cargo, the Petrobras FPSO P-67, made the same journey aboard the Vanguard in February 2019, as documented in a video released by Boskalis (below).