Unions Demand that Bourbon Rhode Search Continues
The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has joined Ukrainian and Croatian maritime unions in demanding that the search for seven seafarers continue in the mid-Atlantic following the sinking of the Bourbon Rhode.
The Luxembourg-flagged Bourbon Rhode – crewed by 14 Ukrainian, Russian, South African, Filipino and Croatian seafarers – sank on September 26 after it was hit by the category 4 hurricane Lorenzo. At the time of the incident, the vessel was in transit around 1,200 nautical miles off the French Martinique island and 60 nautical miles from the eye of the hurricane.
Search and rescue operations coordinated by the Regional Operational Centre of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) have resulted in the recovery a lifeboat with three Ukrainian survivors, as well as recovering the bodies of four seafarers. Since October 1, no more survivors or bodies have been found.
The three Ukrainian seafarers rescued on September 28 have reportedly confirmed that some of the missing seven crew members succeeded in entering a life raft and there is a possibility that they are still alive. However, the French government has denied that the seafarers confirmed this. On October 8, two seafarers onboard the Alp Striker reported that they had seen what could have been a distress flare, and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) informed authorities of an unknown object spotted via satellite could be a life raft.
Despite these reports French authorities announced that search operations will be scaled down.
ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith has called on the French Government to continue search and rescue operations and redeploy all resources and also called on the U.S. and other nations to provide assistance in the search. “As Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs said earlier this week, not all options have been exhausted. Together with our affiliates, the Seafarers Union of Croatia and the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine, we demand that the search continues while there is still a glimmer of hope that the missing seafarers are alive,” said Smith.
Families and friends of missing Bourbon Rhode seafarers have launched a petition urging authorities to continue the search for the missing Croatian master and six Ukrainian crew members. The petition has attracted over 43,000 signatures since it was launched on October 5.
Bourbon said on October 12, “As a whole, search operations have not found any trace of life or life rafts for more than 10 days now despite measures of exceptional magnitude. As a reminder, search and rescue operations have been going on for 16 days, with the sinking of the ship taking place on September 26 as it faced hurricane Lorenzo.
“As decided by the CROSS, search operations are no[t] suspended and won’t stop on a specific date. But they are entering a new phase of active monitoring during which the CROSS will mobilize all vessel transiting in the area to implement an adapted monitoring.”