12 rescued after cargo vessel grounds off St. Thomas

(ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands) — A U.S. Coast Guard boat crew rescued 12 people Wednesday morning after they were forced to abandon a cargo vessel that was taking on water and ran aground just south of the airport in St. Thomas.

All 12 people aboard the 195-foot Bonnie G, a Vanuatu-flagged roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessel, were reported safe. No injuries have been reported to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard watch standers in Sector San Juan received VHF marine radio communication from Bonnie G at 3:41 a.m., reporting the vessel was taking on water in the engine room and that the people on board were abandoning ship onto two life rafts and a lifeboat.

Waves crash over the 195-foot Bonnie G after it ran aground early Wednesday morning off St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. Coast Guard photo

The watch standers transmitted an urgent marine information broadcast to alert vessel traffic in the area of the ongoing distress and notified crewmembers at Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas, who launched a Coast Guard 33-foot special purpose craft to provide rescue assistance. Once on scene, the Coast Guard boat crew embarked all 12 of the survivors and transported them to Crown Bay Marina.

“This vessel grounding was a very close call, and I commend our watch standers and responding boat crew for their efforts rendering assistance to the people who were aboard the Bonnie G and bringing them to safe harbor,” said Capt. Jose Diaz, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “There is still much work ahead of us to investigate and learn the causal factors of this incident. One of our main priorities is to assess the pollution threat from this vessel and ensure risks are properly managed and potentially hazardous chemicals are removed as quickly and safely as possible to maintain and protect the pristine waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

A Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment and response personnel in the U.S. Virgin Islands are working with the Bonnie G vessel company to assess the current pollution threat. Bonnie G is reported to have approximately 13,000 gallons of fuel and approximately 250 gallons of lube oil onboard, and the vessel was carrying six cars, a truck, a trailer and two pallets of cargo. The Coast Guard also notified the National Response Center and local authorities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Coast Guard is investigating the circumstances and causal factors of the incident.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff