The NSRI Table Bay, Melkbosstrand and Bakoven duty crews saved the lives of the crew and captain of the CLAREMONT last night after the trawler run aground on the South Western side of Robben Island.
Pat van Eyssen, NSRI Table Bay station commander, said: “It appears that the vessel lost motor power and they were drifting ashore in storm seas with 5 to 6 meter breaking swells.
“While responding to the scene the skipper and owner, Marcelino da Silva, 49, from Table View, confirmed that his 11 crew members, all from Hout Bay, had moved to the back of the vessel and only 4 had time to retrieve and don their life-jackets”.
He reported that he remained in the wheel house while waves were breaking over the vessel and that they were already being battered against rocks and the trawler was breaking up.
“On arrival at Robben Island, efforts to get NSRI volunteers to the 19.6 M Claremont proved fruitless as waves of between 5 to 6 meters rolled in forcing our rigid inflatable rescue craft to abandon their efforts each time to avoid being capsized or being rammed into rocks.
By this stage it was clear that the crew aboard the casualty vessel were in terror, but we convinced them to remain on-board since only 4 crew members were wearing life-jackets. They were still a few hundred meters off-shore and their vessel gradually being swept towards the rocks and breaking up as waves crashed over her”, added van Eyssen.
The Red Cross helicopter was placed on alert by Metro Control but they could only fly at first light and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) activated the SA Air Force 22 Squadron Oryx helicopters.
The situation intensified when it became clear that the vessel was hard aground on rocks and listing to a 40 degree angle and the crew had no further choice but to abandon ship under their Captain’s instruction.
NSRI rescue crews raced into Murray Bay Harbour and summoned the Robben Island Security who drove the NSRI crews to the side of the island where the Claremont crew were abandoning their ship.
At first only one of the casualty crew managed to get to shore and NSRI rescue swimmers waded, swam and jumped from rock to rock, in between crashing waves to reach the ship where four crew members were found perched on a rock below their listing vessel. They were helped ashore while waves continued to crash over the Claremont.
All 11 crew members were helped ashore by the NSRI rescue swimmers. Only the skipper remained at his wheel house and he requested assistance as he was exhausted and had succumbed to hypothermia.
NSRI rescue swimmers were able to retrieve him from the trawler and he too was brought to shore.
“By 04h17 all 12 crew members of CLAREMONT were accounted for and ashore on Robben Island. They were transported to Murray Bay harbour and treated for hypothermia and shock”, said van Eyssen.
The crew were then transported back to the V & A Waterfront and the rescue operation was completed at 05h17 this morning.
SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority) will investigate any possible environmental impact and any chances of a salvage of the vessel which remains hard aground on Robben Island.