Two box ship crewmen missing after wave, wind knock them off bow

Two containership crewmen were lost at sea south of Alaska when a large wave and wind gust swept them off the vessel’s bow.

The two men were working on the 925-foot Hanjin Pretoria while the ship was sailing through rough seas about 850 nm from Kodiak Island. The U.S. Coast Guard said the victims fell into the Pacific Ocean at 1545 on March 11.

The men were not wearing life vests when they entered the 46° water, the Coast Guard said. Their bodies have not been found.

The conditions at the time included 46-knot winds, with 14- to 18-foot seas, said Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis, a Coast Guard spokeswoman at Kodiak.

“The vessel master reported that the two crewmen had been working on the bow when a wave and gust of wind struck the ship,†Francis said. “Shortly after, one of the crewmen was sighted in the water and the other was nowhere to be seen.â€

The victims, ages 42 and 29, both were from the Republic of Kiribati, a former British colony in the Pacific Ocean formerly known as the Gilbert Islands.

The Liberian-flagged Hanjin Pretoria was en route from Long Beach, Calif., to Busan, South Korea, when the men went overboard.

The ship is operated by Seoul-based Hanjin Shipping.

Witnesses reported that the men weren’t wearing life vests while working on the deck in the foul weather, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon-Paul Rios, a Coast Guard spokesman in Juneau.

“The sea state was pretty bad,†Rios said. “The two guys were working together when they got swept over. They were reported to have fallen in just wearing regular clothes (and) not wearing any protective gear.â€

Hanjin Shipping didn’t respond to a request for comment. The 50,200-gross ton Hanjin Pretoria was built in 2002.

The height of the ship’s main deck was not available.

Francis said the ship’s crew deployed life rings in the water and searched the area for seven hours.

The Coast Guard responded with an HC-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Kodiak and issued an urgent marine information broadcast.

The aircraft was flying with a ceiling of only 500 feet, Francis said.

After a second flight from Kodiak the next morning turned up nothing, the Coast Guard suspended the search.

The Coast Guard is not planning a casualty investigation, because the incident was in international waters.

By Professional Mariner Staff