Friday, January 8, 2010


Something sad happened the other day. At some point during the night a few miles to the north and east of Horsburgh Lighthouse a small vessel sank. There was no reported EPIRB, no SART and no VHF radio distress call. Only the report from the SAT-C well after the incident that a vessel had sunk in such and such a position and that two of a 16 man crew had been rescued.

This occurred a mere 15 miles from us. Given our restricted in ability to maneuver status and the two cables lying in the splice shop we were helpless to assist. But that didn't really matter. That freighter sunk in the middle of one of the unofficial anchorages that now clutter the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Not only that but the location is only 30 miles east of Singapore. As soon as I read the SAT-C message from the Rescue Coordination Center I was sure a full scale rescue would follow yet the only responding vessels were an OSV acting as on scene commander as requested by VTIS and one Singaporean cruiser. Also the the third mate reported one helicopter in the early morning of the sinking. That's it. No coastguard, no C-130s which I see doing touch and gos in Singapore all the time, and no more than two Naval ships for a day.

VTIS is still requesting ships to divert on their way through the strait to look for survivors but at this point three day later it is only for recovery. We actually could hear the on scene commander arranging the transfer of bodies they had recovered to a naval ship last night on the radio.

All we know about the incident is that two survivors were recovered in a life raft and 11 are still missing. Also the wreck was located in about 30 meters of water and the bow is still sticking out of the water. Beyond that the name or nature of the vessel or sinking remain unpublicized.

This occurred in what I must presume are Indonesian waters and there was as far as I can tell no response from Indonesian authorities at all. Like the ferry that sunk a month ago in the strait it seems the emergency services in this very populated and wet nation are minimal. Something the prudent mariner so accustomed to the resources of the United States Coast Guard or Royal Navy Life Boat Institute should pay heed to. Sometimes, even in the busiest shipping lanes in the world, you may still find that you're all by yourself.

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