The main search for survivors from the Bourbon Rhode loss has been called off with seven seafarers still unaccounted for
After more than 10 days of searching, half of the 14 seafarers on the offshore anchor handling and supply tug were found, three of them alive and brought back to France.
Bourbon Corp’s tug supply vessel Bourbon Rhode sank on 26 September after taking on water and being overtaken by hurricane Lorenzo in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Up to 10 commercial ships, naval aircraft and French Navy frigate Ventôse searched the site for survivors.
In an update on 7 October, Bourbon said no further trace of the missing seafarers had been found in the past four days, with the result that search teams were being demobilised from the site and ships passing through the accident site were being asked to adapt their watch for potential survivors or bodies.
In addition, heavy duty anchor handling tug and supply vessel ALP Striker remains in the shipwreck zone, surveying the area to find the missing seafarers.
Bourbon was working with the Regional Operational Center of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) in West Indies-Guyana and the French Navy in the search for missing crew members.
On 7 October, "CROSS decided to make the search operation evolve," said Bourbon. "It will regularly disseminate messages to vessels in the shipwreck zone and ask them to carry out adapted watch."
In reaction to the disaster and search efforts, Bourbon chief executive Gaël Bodénès said, "Bourbon and all its employees are in mourning, and I would like to reiterate our sincere condolences and our full support to the families and loved ones of the victims. We are working in close co-operation with stakeholders to understand the facts and circumstances of this tragedy.
"Finally, we thank the entire maritime community for its many signs of solidarity, so precious in these difficult times. I would like to reiterate our heartfelt thanks to the CROSS teams, the crews of the French Navy and the commercial vessels involved in search operations."
2 October from Bourbon update on crisis response operations
Since the beginning of the operations on 26 September, a French Navy Falcon 50 aircraft made daily flights over the search area, supported by a C130 Hercules aircraft from the US Coast Guard. A French Navy frigate, accompanied by its helicopter, was co-ordinating the search using a gridded system made up of nearly 40 search areas.
Luxembourg-flagged Bourbon Rhode was in transit from Las Palmas, Canary Islands, to Georgetown, Guyana, on 26 September to begin supporting offshore drilling and floating production activities, when trouble struck.
The 14 seafarers on board had reported water ingress as Bourbon Rhode came into the path of major hurricane Lorenzo on 26 September, prompting an emergency mission by French Navy and commercial ships.
At 1,200 nautical miles off Martinique island and 970 nautical miles due west of Cape Verde, water began inundating the offshore tug’s aft section when the tug was within miles of the hurricane’s eye wall.
28 September from Bourbon update on crisis response operations
Bourbon has confirmed Bourbon Rhode has sunk.
Bourbon’s crisis cell is working with the Regional Operational Center of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) in West Indies-Guyana and French Navy in the search for missing crew members.
CROSS and the French Navy, under the authority of the French national maritime authority, are co-ordinating operations and have called on merchant ships for assistance.
"Five commercial vessels have changed course in order to bring assistance to the rescue teams," according to Bourbon.
A French Navy Falcon 50 jet and aircraft from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) conducted numerous flights over the search area over the weekend.
French Navy surveillance frigate Ventôse and its helicopter are expected to join search and rescue operations today (30 September)
Bourbon’s crisis team said it is monitoring the situation, maintaining contact and providing support for crew members’ families.
Bourbon confirmed the three crew members who were rescued by a lifeboat received medical assistance on a commercial ship attending the site of the emergency.
26 September Bourbon statement on emergency rescue operations
“A rescue operation of a tug supply vessel Bourbon Rhode sailing under the Luxembourg flag is under way, as the vessel was in transit at 1200 nautical miles off Martinique island and 60 nautical miles South-South East from the eye of category 4 hurricane Lorenzo. In particularly adverse weather conditions, 14 crew members are facing a water ingress in the aft part of the vessel,” Bourbon said in a statement.
“A crisis cell has immediately been activated and it ensures the coordination, out of Marseilles, of the rescue of the vessel and its crew, in close collaboration with authorities, including the Regional Operational Centre of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) West Indies-Guyana. In order to bring the quickest support possible, CROSS asked bulk carrier SSI Excellent to change its route and assist the Bourbon Rhode.”
The 229-m bulk carrier was 200 nautical miles south of Bourbon Rhode at the time of the request.