Photo: Bourbon Rhode / Image source: ITF

Maritime unions: Keep searching for missing Bourbon Rhode crew!

International maritime unions have called for the search to continue for the seven missing seafarers of the Bourbon Rhode vessel, which sank in the mid-Atlantic on September 26.

Bourbon Rhode / Image source: ITF

Bourbon Offshore, the owner of the vessel, said yesterday the search operations would be adapted to “mobilize all vessel transiting in the area to implement adapted monitoring.”

While Bourbon did not use the word “canceled”, it has has been understood that the active search efforts would either be canceled or significantly scaled-down.

Responding to the news, the International Transport Workers’ Federation joined Ukrainian and Croatian maritime unions in demanding that the search for seven seafarers continue.

The Luxembourg-flagged Bourbon Rhode – crewed by 14 Ukrainian, Russian, South African, Filipino and Croatian seafarers – sank on September 28 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) since September 26 have resulted in the recovery of 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.

However, ITF has said, the three Ukrainian seafarers rescued on September 28 have 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.

ITF: “We demand that the search continues while there is still a glimmer of hope that the missing seafarers are alive.”

Additionally, on October 8, two seafarers onboard the Alp Striker vessel 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 today directly called on the French Government to continue search and rescue operations and redeploy all resources and also called on the US and other nations to provide assistance in the search while there is a prospect that the seven missing seafarers can be found alive,” ITF said.

“The entire ITF family express our deep condolences to the families of four seafarers who have lost their loved ones, and also extend our thoughts to the missing crew and their families and pray for their safe return,” said Smith.

Bourbon Rhode’s last known location / Image generated by VesselsValue

“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.

“Over the past week, search has been intense and extensive to try to detect a sign after on the one hand, the report of this potential distress flare and on the other hand, the satellite photo obtained from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). These new searches have unfortunately been unsuccessful, Bourbon reported.

“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, Bourbon said. Search and rescue operations have been going on for 16 days,” Bourbon said yesterday.

The Croatian Seafarers Unions have shared a letter the ITF last week sent to all institutions that can help with the SAR operation. Read the letter below:

Dear Sir/Madame,

RE: ITF urges that the Search and Rescue for Bourbon Rhode IMO 9356359 continues

The International Transport Workers’ Federation which comprises of 670 unions worldwide representing around 18.5 million transport workers, strongly urges your government to continue the Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts for the missing crew that were lost at sea on the 26 September 2019 when theAHT/terminal tug Bourbon Rhode sunk due to the category 4 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean near Martinique. 

For unknown reasons the SAR efforts were halted after only a week but was then resumed a couple of days later. So far three crew members have been found alive, four confirmed deceased which means that seven seafarers are still waiting to be found.

We have been informed that the four life rafts on board were successfully launched and therefore there it is highly likely that the remaining crew are still alive waiting and hoping to be rescued.

Please do everything within your power to ensure that the search for the seafarers continue. 

Thank you in advance.

Kind regards

Stephen Cotton