The following is text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:
(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Coast Guard air and surface rescue crews at Sector San Juan responded and assisted the distressed Island Express on Wednesday afternoon after the ship started taking on water when it departed the Port of San Juan for storm avoidance in anticipation of Tropical Cyclone 9.
Island Express, a Cyprus-flagged 412-foot ro-ro cargo ship, is now safely moored in San Juan Harbor with its 18-man crew.
Coast Guard watch standers in Sector San Juan received a mayday VHF radio transmission on Channel 16 from the captain of Island Express, who reported that there was a possible broken pipe in the engine room and that approximately 75 percent of the bilges were full of water.
Watch standers directed the launch of two 33-foot small boats and a 45-foot response boat-medium from Station San Juan that got underway and arrived on scene with Island Express. A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter also arrived on scene, and the air crew was able to maintain communications with the Coast Guard boat crews as they escorted the cargo ship in 8- to 10-foot seas back to the safety of the port.
“Despite the impending tropical storm and all Station San Juan small boats securely out of the water for an incoming storm, our boat crews responded immediately to launch two 33-foot small boats from their trailers and the 45-foot response boat-medium utilizing the mobile boat hoist,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Lance Wiser, Station San Juan officer in charge. “The teamwork and training of station operators allowed these evolutions to safely take place simultaneously, which led to all three assets arriving on scene with the distressed vessel within 45 minutes. The sea conditions on scene were pushing the parameters of the small boats but the crews endured and the distressed vessel was escorted safety into the harbor.”
Meanwhile, Sector San Juan Prevention personnel coordinated with the San Juan Bay Pilots and two Puerto Rico Towing tugboats that rendezvoused with Island Express at the entrance of San Juan Harbor. The tugboats escorted Island Express to Pier 15, where the vessel safely moored and the crew was able to finalize dewatering of the bilge spaces.