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Dramatic rescue of mainland sailors during typhoon Sarika

A Marine Police Report, by Superintendent Justin Shave, Commander of Marine East Division, Tui Min Hoi

On 18 October 2016, during Typhoon Sarika, for which the Typhoon Signal No. 3 had been hoisted, a Mainland Trading Vessel (MTV) entered Hong Kong waters seeking shelter from the extremely poor weather and sea conditions. At approximately 1530 hours, the MTV reported to the Marine Department’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCCC) that it was taking on water and in distress near Basalt Island, off the coast of Sai Kung.  At the time, Police Launch 55 (PL 55) and two smaller launches (PL 9 and PL 16) were taking shelter in the inshore waters of Rocky Harbour. When the report of the vessel in distress was received, the launches left the safety of Rocky Harbour and proceeded to the aid of the MTV.

At 1541 hrs, PL55, commanded by Station Sergeant Tony Ng, was the first rescue resource to arrive and found the waters east of Basalt Island to be extremely hostile. The MTV had by this time already capsized and the crewmen were in the water nearby and beginning to separate from each other. The weather was extremely poor with low visibility and waves of 6-7 metres in height.

The extreme weather conditions made approaching the persons in the water hazardous to both the survivors as well as the crews of the Police launches. As they approached a following sea was causing the craft to pitch heavily and accelerate towards the persons in the water. Great skill was required to retain control and after a number of approaches the crews were able to finally bring their launches alongside the survivors.

The crew of PL 55 acting swiftly to pull eight of the 12 rescued crewmen from the MTV to safety, however a ninth crewmen had sustained a leg injury restricting his ability to move and climb the rescue net lowered over the side. After three attempts to rescue him had failed, PL 55 came within 100 metres of Pyramid Rock before the injured survivor could finally be pulled from the water. Pyramid Rock being a dangerous navigational hazard with the potential to cause substantial damage to any vessel coming into contact with it.

Despite their smaller size, Police launches 16 and 9 were also able to pull survivors from the water, with PL 16 rescuing two of the stricken crewmen and PL 9 rescuing one.

The rescued crewmen all suffered injuries with one sustaining broken ribs and a fractured skull, another had three broken ribs and a third had a broken thigh-bone. The rest of the MTV’s crew also suffered minor injuries and abrasions. It is unfortunate that the 13th person, the Captain, could not be saved. He had disappeared and his body was found several days later.


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