Research vessel dispatched to rescue shipwrecked seamen on Gough Island

SA Agulhas II in Cape Town Harbour. Credit: Graham Bawden/Wikimedia Commons

Sixty two seafarers – most of whom are South Africans – had a lucky escape after abandoning their Belize-flagged fishing vessel, Geo Searcher, in the South Atlantic about 2,500 km from Cape Town.

The South African research vessel, Agulhas II, is on its way to Gough Island to rescue them.

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Geo Searcher was within 1.6 km of Gough Island when it experienced problems and took on water after it reportedly collided with underwater rocks.

“The seafarers managed to climb into lifeboats and other onboard small craft before making their way from the northern point of the island around to the southern region close to the South African research station. South Africa has a research station on the 91 km² South Atlantic island, which is about 2,500 km from Cape Town. They were assisted ashore and are all reported to be accounted for. It has been reported that one seafarer sustained some minor injuries,” said SAMSA in a statement.

Geo Searcher was acquired by a Cape Town fishing company, Ovenstone Agencies, which is the sole concession holder of Tristan da Cunha fishing rights, in 2016. The vessel served as the island’s primary fishing vessel. Built in 1982 as a scientific research vessel, it was converted in Gdansk, Poland, to a factory freezer vessel with cargo and passenger capacity. It can ferry people and supplies between the remote island and Cape Town.

Agulhas II is expected to reach Gough Island on 19 October. The vessel will then make its return voyage, arriving in Cape Town by Friday or Saturday next week.

“The vessel is carrying two helicopters on board, which will greatly assist in the transfer of the stricken seafarers from the island to the vessel,” said SAMSA.