While serving on a U.S. Coast Guard ship last month, a United States Merchant Marine Academy student and two former students came to the rescue of 11 Pakistani fisherman whose boat was sinking in the Indian Ocean.
The student, Joseph Mugno, said a group effort saved the lives of the fishermen, who were adrift at sea for 10 days.
“It was great how smooth the rescue went,” Mugno said. “Everyone just did what they had to do to make sure we were able to rescue the fisherman.”
He, along with former students Brandt Hager and Dylan Carrara, was aboard the MV Maersk Kentucky when it received a VHF, or very high frequency, radio distress call “in broken English” from the sinking fishing vessel, according to a Maersk Line news release.
Under the direction of Capt. John O’Boyle, the ship then altered its course toward the sinking boat, the release said, which was six nautical miles from the Maersk Kentucky.
Once the ship was near the sinking boat, five men in a small dinghy were seen paddling toward the 290-meter, 60,000 deadweight ton container vessel, the release said.
They were allowed onto the Maersk Kentucky, the release said, once it was determined that they were not threatening or armed.
Mugno said the ship continued toward the sinking boat, where six more men were seeking rescue.
“We began drifting closer to the fishing vessel when three fishermen jumped in the water and began swimming towards our vessel, and also boarded via the pilot ladder,” he said. “Once our vessel was alongside, the three remaining fishermen were able to safely leave their sinking boat and board our vessel.”
Mugno said that after hearing the condition the fishermen were in, they were “glad that the fishermen were still alive.”
“Our crew found out that the fishermen had been adrift for 10 days, out of food for six days and out of water for four days,” he said.
Mugno was on the Maersk Kentucky for his sea year, which is a “cooperative educational program designed to give you practical knowledge of the performance and operating characteristics of various classes of vessels, the operating requirements in different trade routes, and labor relations in the ocean shipping industry,” according to the academy website.
A midshipman’s first sea period takes place during his or her sophomore year and lasts about 135 days.
The Maersk Kentucky is part of the U.S. Coast Guard Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue program, which uses commercial ships to perform search and rescue in areas where there are no traditional search and rescue resources.