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Three Vietnamese Fishermen Beat the Odds of Survival at Sea

Border guards rescue
A survivor rescued off Tran Van Thoi on Sunday (Courtesy Vietnam Border Guard)

Published Jun 20, 2023 10:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

In the past three weeks, three Vietnamese fishermen each defied the odds and survived hours or days in the water after going overboard, making national headlines for "miraculous" rescues.

On June 1, fisherman Tran Van Viet was under way on a fishing boat off the coast of Vietnam's Ben Tre province. Viet was working abovedecks, drying squid, when he slipped and fell over the side. No one saw or heard him go over, and he was left adrift. Without food, water or floatation aids, he stayed afloat on his own for nearly four full days until he was rescued by another fishing boat, he told Vietnamese media. He was taken ashore to a border guard station on Phu Quy Island, 45 nm off the coast, and then transferred onwards for medical care. Except for sunburns and fish bites, he was none the worse for wear, and he was released to his family on June 6. He does not intend to return to fishing, he told local outlet Nhan Dan. 

In a separate but similar rescue carried out Sunday, the cargo ship Oriental Star rescued a fisherman who had fallen overboard and gone adrift off Binh Thuan province. The crew spotted a man in the water while they were under way near Phu Quy Island, and the captain ordered them to reverse course to retrieve the survivor. When the ship returned to the previous position, there was no one there, so the crew continued their search into the night. Two hours later, using searchlights, they spotted a fisherman floating in the water, and they pulled him safely aboard. The man had slipped and fallen off his fishing boat, and his crewmates had not immediately noticed that he was missing. He was delivered safely to shore at Phu Quy. 

On the same day, border guards on Vietnam's Gulf of Thailand coastline rescued another man who had jumped off of a fishing vessel in order to escape an abusive work environment. On Sunday morning, the Song Duc border guard station recieved a report that a man had been spotted drifting at sea about three nautical miles off the Tran Van Thoi district, near the tip of Vietnam's southernmost peninsula. The border guards requisitioned a local fishing boat and recovered the survivor from the water after a short search. 

The victim reported that he was new to fishing and had been threatened with beatings while aboard his employer's vessel, so he decided to abandon ship when the moment was right. He prepared some supplies and jumped over the side, drifting for three days before he was discovered. He told his rescuers that he had decided to drink saltwater to quench his thirst - a factor that could have negatively impacted his odds of survival. The circumstances behind his decision to jump overboard are under investigation.