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The SINKEX Ship That Got Away Prompts Rescue Mission

Tanker ashore in Philippines
Instead of being a SINKEX target the former tanker washed ashore in the Philippines (PCG photo)

Published Jul 14, 2023 6:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

Commanders from the Philippine armed forces confirmed that they are mounting a rescue mission for three sailors who had been manning a vessel scheduled to be part of a SINKEX exercise with the U.S. military, but instead washed ashore today near Batan. 

The former replenishment tanker BRP Lake Caliraya was scheduled to serve as a target on July 13 as part of the joint military exercise underway in the Philippines. More than 1,200 Filipinos from the Armed Forces are taking part in the exercise which started on July 6 and is scheduled to run till July 21. Seven Philippine Navy vessels were scheduled to be part of the exercise along with nearly 1,500 U.S. Marines.

One of the highlights of the exercise was the planned SINKEX. The tanker had been donated to the Philippine Navy in 2014 by the Philippine National Oil Corporation. It was decommissioned in 2020 and was identified earlier this year to serve as a target for the exercise that is designed to enhance the Philippines coastal defenses and practice tactics for a counter landing. The tanker is reported to be 4,500 dwt and 325 feet in length.

The tanker was moved into position for the exercise which was scheduled to take place approximately 12 nautical miles off the bay of San Antonio, Zambales. It was to be the second SINKEX conducted jointly after a previous exercise in April 2023 in which a World War II vintage vessel was sent to the bottom as the President of the Philippines and military leaders looked on.

As luck would have it for the former tanker, while it was in place yesterday the weather did not cooperate. Forecasters had been warning of a southeast monsoon effect and yesterday in addition to monsoon rains and wind, the officers determined the cloud ceiling and visibility did not meet the threshold for the agreed safety criteria. SINKEX was called off while they discussed possibly rescheduling it before the end of the joint exercise.

This morning as the tanker was being repositioned it instead ran aground while being towed back to base. The vessel is stranded on the shoreline with three sailors aboard. The Philippine Coast Guard reports it was undertaking the mission to get the sailors off the stranded ship.

It appears the decommissioned BRP Lake Caliraya will be the one that got away surviving a SINKEX.