Australia’s HMAS Newcastle has provided medical treatment and evacuated two badly burned Filipino merchant seamen from a stricken oil tanker in the Somali Basin.
The seamen from the Liberian registered Merchant Tanker Perla, were severely burned during a machinery fire which left the tanker powerless, adrift and vulnerable to pirate attack on 7 June 2013.
Heavy seas required Newcastle’s embarked Sea Hawk helicopter to affect the rescue which winched a three-person medical team to Perla to treat and recover the seriously injured men shortly after dawn on 8 June.
Newcastle’s Commanding Officer Commander Paul O’Grady said sea conditions prevented immediate transfer of the casualties.
“After steaming 100 nautical miles at best speed to reach the Perla, the sea state prevented us from rendering immediate assistance,” Commander O’Grady said.
“By radio, our Medical Officer Lieutenant Natalie Boulton established the casualties were stable enough to remain onboard until conditions improved. Being in a known pirate area we took up a security position for Perla.”
Medical team member Able Seaman John Baguio, a Filipino speaker, reassured the casualties.
“I was humbled that I could help merchant seamen from my old country, as a member of my new country’s Navy,” Able Seaman Baguio said.
“Before leaving the Philippines, I had trained to be a merchant seaman myself, so this whole situation was surreal. It was a fantastic opportunity and I was glad I could help out in my small way.
“It made me feel very proud of being in the Royal Australian Navy.”
The specially-trained Navy medics winched onboard the merchant vessel assessed two men as seriously injured with second and third degree burns to their face, head, shoulder and hands. The third man had a second degree burn to his arm and was provided first aid by Newcastle’s medics.
The two serious casualties were winched to Newcastle’s embarked Sea Hawk helicopter and transferred to Newcastle’s embarked medical officer for treatment and stabilisation.
The men were provided medical care overnight until the arrival of Spanish Naval Ship ESPS Numancia (Santa Maria Class Guided Missile Frigate) joined which facilitated the evacuation of the injured men to a hospital at Port Victoria, Seychelles.
Newcastle is conducting maritime security operations in the region as part of the Combined Maritime Forces.
HMAS Newcastle’s mission is to promote a secure maritime environment for the benefit of legitimate mariners and this rescue operation is an example of multi-national collaboration between the French, Spanish and Australian naval assets.
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130305.