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Fighting for their lives on the open sea: Fisherman survive 'frantic, raging' boat fire

Fishing crew abandoned vessel Olivia Marie after a fire broke out in the engine room. Picture: Brian Abrahams

Fishing crew abandoned vessel Olivia Marie after a fire broke out in the engine room. Picture: Brian Abrahams

Published Apr 17, 2023


Cape Town - Fishermen got to live another day after they were rescued from their boat that caught fire in the middle of the sea at the weekend.

The 26 fishermen were onboard the Olivia Marie, a vessel that according to its AIS data, showed that it had departed Hout Bay on April 5.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) said the crew reported that they were abandoning ship after a fire had begun in the engine room, and that the “whole vessel” was now ablaze.

The fire is said to have spread quickly and the crew got into a small life raft despite strong winds and high seas.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Simon’s Town, said that teams were activated at 1:40 am and MRCC and Telkom Maritime Radio Services coordinated a response.

“The cargo vessel AquaExplorer and the fishing vessel Umfondini diverted to assist.

“The casualty boat crew of 26 were rescued onto the fishing vessel Umfondini.

“NSRI Hout Bay were also activated, and they dispatched the two NSRI rescue craft Nadine Gordimer and Albie Matthews and NSRI Simon’s Town dispatched the NSRI rescue vessel Donna Nicholas.

“The Transnet National Ports Authority, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, NSRI Simon’s Town duty controllers, NSRI Hout Bay duty controllers and the NASRI's EOC assisted MRCC in the coordination of the rescue operation,” said the NSRI.

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) described the rescue as “a frantic effort involving no less than three ships which had responded to a mayday call.”

“All crew were safely transferred to the Umfondini with the prevailing winds reported to be South-westerly at 15 knots and a water swell of up to 2.6 metres (approximately 8.5 feet).

“The AquaExplorer proceeded with its normal voyage,” said SAMSA.

All the fishermen were safely transported to land and none of them were injured.

The NSRI were then able to use sea currents to gently tow the vessel away from land and hold her off-shore until the tug-boat Strandloper arrived on the scene – averting an environmental maritime disaster.

The casualty, Olivia Marie, was then towed and moored at a berth on the sea side of Hout Bay Harbour pier.

Cape Times

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