Hong Kong-flagged ship saves Indonesian, Chinese crew of distressed chemical tanker off Ilocos Norte

A Philippine Coast Guard personnel commends the crew of MV Sheng An, a Hong kong-flagged container ship, after they rescued 13 Indonesians and three Chinese crew members of chemical tanker MT King Rich off Badoc Island in Ilocos Norte on Nov. 18, 2023. (Screenshot from PCG video)

Sixteen foreign crew members of a distressed chemical tanker have been rescued by a Hong Kong-flagged container ship off Ilocos Norte over the weekend.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commandant Adm. Ronnie Gil Gavan recognized the "acts of heroism" exhibited by MV Sheng An crew which led to the successful rescue of 13 Indonesian and three Chinese crew of Sierra Leone-flagged MT King Rich off Badoc Island last Nov. 18.

"Through the efforts, coordination, and team work of MV Sheng An led by Captain Zhang Xiayo, the crew of MT King Rich were successfully rescued," Gavan said on Monday, Nov. 20.

"Imbued with a deep sense of commitment, determination, and selfless act of kindness, the officers and crew of MV Sheng An have shown an exemplary service that is truly worthy of recognition," he added. 

According to the PCG, the propeller shaft of MT King Rich broke around 1 p.m. on Nov. 18. This caused seawater to enter the engine room of the chemical tanker.

The crew abandoned the tanker but they ensured that their engine and gasoline tank would not leak, and no chemical cargo was onboard when the incident occurred, the PCG said.

The crew members were onboard a liferaft when the crew of MV Sheng An saw and rescued them at approximately 81 nautical miles west, northwest off Badoc Island around 5 p.m.

MV Sheng An arrived  at the Subic Port in Zambales on Sunday, Nov. 19, carrying the crew of MT King Rich. The PCG said the rescued crew were all in good physical condition.

The PCG's Coast Guard Aviation Force conducted an aerial survey on Monday, Nov. 20, to check the status of the distressed chemical tanker that remains floating in the vicinity waters off Badoc Island. 

"The PCG is also actively coordinating with the concerned shipping company for the towing of MT King Rich," PCG spokesperson Rear Adm. Armando Balilo said.

Young fisherman rescues fellow fisherfolk

Meanwhile, the PCG also recognized a 21-year-old fisherman after he rescued his fellow fisherfolk who went missing for almost a week after a failed fishing activity off Candelaria, Zambales.

The PCG said that Jhonny Marag, a resident of Barangay Sinabacan in Candelaria town, saved Edgar Bejar, skipper of fishing boat (FB) Pepito 3, his son Jake, his son-in-law Melchor Molato, and crew member Arnel Morano.

According to PCG, the crew of FB Pepito 3 conducted a fishing activity at approximately 70 nautical miles off Barangay Cato, Infanta, Pangasinan last Nov. 9 when their motorbanca's engine malfunctioned. 

After failing to return to their homes, the crew of FB Pepito 3  were declared missing on Nov. 10.

The PCG and local government unit (LGU) officials of Infanta launched joint search and rescue (SAR) operations until Marag saw the fishermen at approximately 40 nautical miles off Candelaria on Nov. 15. 

Marag told the PCG that he saw a smoke signal from the distressed fishing boat while he was fishing nearby which prompted him to check the area. 

According to Bejar, they coasted for several days along the deserted sea while braving strong winds and killer waves, and fending off hunger and thirst. He said they survived on melted ice that they used to preserve the fish they caught. 

"The water was smelly but we can’t do anything but drink it. We threw away the fish as they were already rotting, and only saved the squid which we dried under the sun, which was also rotting but we still ate them," Bejar said. 

"We were already losing hope that we would be rescued. Just one more day in the sea without rescue and we would all have died,” he added.

The rescued fishermen were transported by local government officials of Candelaria to Infanta, Pangasinan.