Stolt Valor Suffers Explosion in Arabian Gulf, Rescue Crews Respond

By MarEx 2012-03-15 14:23:38

Crews of the Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones and Coast Guard Cutter Baranof rescued 24 Filipino mariners, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command officials reported.

The John Paul Jones, assigned to Combined Maritime Forces Task Force 152, responded to a distress call from the Liberian-flagged motor vessel Stolt Valor, operating in international waters 48 nautical miles southeast of Farsi Island, Iran, officials said.

When the John Paul Jones’ crew spotted one of two life rafts signaling with a small light and launched the ship’s rigid-hull inflatable boat to investigate, they found 16 people in the first raft and eight more in the other.

Navy Ensign Darius Mercer, right, and sailors assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones transfer six rescued Filipino mariners to U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Baranof in the Arabian Gulf, March 15, 2012. U.S. Navy photo 

"We were ready to assist, and we were fortunately in the position to help," said Navy Cmdr. Jon Duffy, the John Paul Jones’ commanding officer.

Stolt Valor's master confirmed one crew member died during an explosion that occured onboard. The 24 rescued mariners were in good health and did not require medical help, officials said. Their rescuers gave them food, water and blankets.

"Coming to the aid of fellow mariners in trouble and conducting search and rescues at sea are critical skills that the Navy trains us to get right," Duffy said. "I couldn't be more proud of how our crews reacted from the initial distress call to when every survivor was safe on deck."

At about 7:30 a.m., the 24 survivors were transferred from the John Paul Jones to the Baranof to be taken to Manama, Bahrain.

Stolt Valor is a chemical tanker carrying about 13,000 metric tons of methyl tertiary butyl ether, which is used to increase oxygen content in gasoline throughout the United States to reduce carbon monoxide and ozone levels caused by auto emissions, officials said. It is considered soluble, but not biodegradable, they added.

The Combined Maritime Forces battle watch officer reported the incident to the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Center, which sent firefighting tugboats to the scene.

The USS John Paul Jones is conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. Coast Guard Cutter Baranof is assigned to Task Force 55 and U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

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Source: U.S. Department of Defense