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Schooner Running Eco-Cargo Service Lost Off Bahamas with Two Missing

schooner cargo ship
De Gallant built in 1916 was operating an eco-cargo service (Blue Schooner)

Published May 23, 2024 5:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

One of the historic schooners used to operate an eco-cargo service crossing the Atlantic was reported lost with two of its eight crewmembers missing. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Bahamas Defense Force reported that suspended the search operation late on Wednesday after 44 hours and a search covering 3,700 square miles.

Six crewmembers were recovered and two of the vessel’s lifeboats were located along with a debris field approximately 20 miles north of Great Inagua at the southernmost end of the Bahamas. The crewmembers had donned their survival suits they told their rescuers when it became apparent the vessel was sinking.

The survivors reported that the ship was sailing in good conditions with winds less than 10 knots and a good sea state on Tuesday, May 21. They are indicating that an “extremely sudden and violent” meteorological phenomenon overtook them while they were underway in otherwise mild conditions. The captain is among the survivors and they are reporting the people were professional sailors and trained in sea survival and rescue techniques. The operation had been designed to possibly carry passengers or trainee sailors, but it is not clear if any were aboard during this voyage.

 

Life rafts recovered at the wreck site (USCG)

 

The Coast Guard reports it began receiving signals from personal locators early on Tuesday and was unable to reach the vessel. A helicopter was dispatched which located the survivors around 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday and transported them to the USCG Air Station Miami. Working with the Bahamas, planes, boats, and helicopters undertook the search.

The vessel, named De Gallant, left Santa Marta, Colombia on May 11. The company had posted pictures online showing a cargo of coffee, cocoa, and cane sugar being loaded aboard. Reports said they were bound for Europe with a planned stop in the Azores.

The cargo service was launched in 2017 by a French company called Blue Schooner designed to use wind energy to transport mostly organic goods. De Gallant, with a length overall of approximately 119 feet (36.2 meters), had a capacity of 35 tonnes. Built in Vlaardingen (Netherlands) at the Figee brothers' shipyard and launched in 1916 under the name Jannetje Margaretha, she displaced 160 tonnes. She was most recently registered in Vanuatu and operating under charter to Blue Schooner. 

 

De Gallant in Colombia on a prior voyage alongside a small containership (Blue Schooner)

 

The concept was to carry cargo as well as passengers and trainees. They also offered the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments while underway. The tentative schedule posted online shows the vessel was to be in Europe before a planned return to Colombia in November.

The Coast Guard extended its condolences to the families while the French consulate in Florida was providing support for the six survivors. The vessel was lost at a depth of more than 2,000 meters.