Caribbean Coast Guard rescues 14 crew after tanker sinks

An SAR operation took place on May 27th involving the US Coast Guard and Caribbean Coast Guard, to locate and rescue the 16 crew of oil products tanker Cetus (IMO 8108949).

The tanker issued a distress signal, stating that it was sinking after an engine failure, and that the crew were abandoning the ship. The vessel at the time was 135 nm north of Aruba. The 295 ft tanker was registered in Comoros

Patrol planes and nearby cargo ships were deployed and 14 crew were rescued, but two remained missing.

The vessel had been en route from Barahona Dominican Republic, to Venezuela, laden status unknown, but thought to be in ballast.

An oil slick was spotted, but this could have been bunker fuel or oil residues. The crew was said to consist of Venezuelan, Dominican and Cuban nationalities.

The CCG had the assistance of two commercial ships sailing in the Caribbean as it coordinated the SAR operation The CCG is based in Willemstad, Curacao.

The CCG directed a patrol plane to the area to begin a search for the crew of the tanker. The Dash plane quickly spotted people in the ocean and dropped two inflatable life rafts. The plane’s crew reported that the people were climbing into the rafts.

To monitor both life rafts a second airplane from the CCG joined the search effort. In addition, a USCG cutter Thetis also helped in the effort by sending a helicopter to aid in the search and rescue.

Two other merchant ships also in the area responded to the requests of the Coast Guard for assistance. However, by the time they reached the area the two life rafts had drifted apart. One vessel, general cargo ship Melba, located one of the rafts and took aboard nine of the survivors. It proceeded to Venezuela, where the crew was landed on May 30. The second vessel, bulk carrier UBC Stavanger, located the second inflatable raft and rescued five crew members. One of the rafts also rescued the ship’s dog. The bulker transported the survivors to Trinidad.

1982-built, Comoros-flagged, 1,979 gt Cetus is owned by Sea Bliss Shipping Corp care of manager Intercaribbean Tankers SA of the Dominican republic.

The vessel appears on Marine Traffic as the Kaykay 1 or Kaykay1. No AIS since 2020. The vessel was renamed the Cetus on November 1st 2021.