Russian Expedition Team Rescued After Sharks Attack Their Boat

MOL's car carrier arrived to safe the three explorers after sharks damaged their inflatable catamaran (AMSA)

Published Sep 6, 2023 1:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Three times a charm as the old saying goes for an expedition team from Russia that was attempting to complete a circumnavigation in an inflatable catamaran. The team was rescued overnight after the third mishap during their voyage, this time after they reported their vessel was attacked by sharks.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) reports they began receiving a distress signal from an emergency position beacon (EPIRB) around 1:30 a.m. and they quickly determined it was registered to an approximately 30-foot inflatable catamaran named Tion-Russian Ocean Way. They began coordinating a rescue contacting a car carrier, the Dugong Ace operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines of Japan, that was in the area and also dispatching the Cairns-based Challenger Rescue Aircraft to provide support.



The signal was coming for a location approximately 450 nautical miles to the southeast of Cairns in the Coral Sea. AMSA said the three sailors aboard the catamaran were well-prepared and remained calm during the rescue operation. They said the fact that they had a distress beacon helped greatly in the rescue.

The team, which consisted of two Russian sailors and a French citizen, had departed Vanuatu on the latest leg of the circumnavigation and was heading to Cairns. It was a trip of approximately 1,400 miles and was expected to take two to three weeks.

After they were taken safely aboard the car carrier, they recounted a tale reporting that their inflatable boat had been attacked by sharks. AMSA duty manager Joe Zeller told reporters that “a large section of the stern of the catamaran is missing.” He said both hulls of the vessel had been damaged by several shark attacks.


Part of the stern of the catamaran is missing after several shark attacks (AMSA)


The expedition has had a series of mishaps. It began from St. Petersburg on July 1, 2021, with the team hoping to set a new record for a circumnavigation aboard an inflatable trimaran in a trip sponsored by the Russian Geographical Society, a private institution. After sailing almost half of the globe, the original vessel, Russian Ocean Way ran into problems during the leg of the trip between Chile and Rapanui (Easter Island). Reports are that the steering failed on the first vessel but the crew reached Easter Island. Luckily for the team, the manufacturer of the trimaran had stored an inflatable catamaran on the island. It had been there for almost eight years. The crew began working on refurbishing the vessel and preparing it to continue their voyage.

They were due to leave Easter Island at the end of April and the reports said they were loading 100 kg of food, 500 liters of water, and 300 liters of gasoline. They were approaching Tahiti in June when the new vessel was attacked for the first time by sharks. The hull was also punctured but they were able to make repairs.

The car carrier is reporting that the crew is in good health. They are expected to arrive in Brisbane tomorrow.

Team with their new catamaran preparing to leave Easter Island in April (Russian Geographical Society photo)