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U.S. Navy Assists Distressed Fishing Vessel Off Liberian Coast
While transiting off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia late on March 20, the U.S. Navy's High Speed Vessel Swift received a distress call, relayed from the Maritime Regional Coordination Center (RMCC) in Lisbon, of a Portuguese fishing vessel, the
While transiting off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia late on March 20, the U.S. Navy's High Speed Vessel Swift received a distress call, relayed from the Maritime Regional Coordination Center (RMCC) in Lisbon, of a Portuguese fishing vessel, the Princesa Di Guadiana, stranded 100 nautical miles off the Liberian Coast with no food, water or fuel.



The RMCC contacted Lieutenant Commander Jose Neto of the Portuguese Navy, who is the Africa Partnership Station (APS) Operations Officer aboard the USS Fort McHenry, APS flag ship. Cap Lara, a Greek flagged vessel, remained in the vicinity until the Swift arrived to assist the Princesa.



The Fort McHenry was in a position to assist in relaying the first request for assistance from the vessel, and acted as an intermediary for the three other vessels during the early stages of the incident.



Once given permission to approach the stranded vessel, Swift launched a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) into the water to assess the situation. The vessel, which had a small group of fishermen aboard, suffered diesel propulsion engine failure and the ship's electrical generator was quickly running out of power.



"It was definitely an interesting experience," said Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Hamilton, crew member of the RHIB who assisted the stranded vessel and boat engineer during the event. "It was my first time doing a boat operation like this one at night. We approached the stranded ship, and we could tell they were very happy to see us. We delivered food and water and made sure they would be alright until their repair parts came in and we returned back to our ship."



Once on the scene, crew members from Swift, members of Mobile Security Squadron Three and Dr. Augustus Vogel, of the office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, who is embarked on board Swift in support of APS, approached the vessel to assist. Vogel acted as an interpreter for the event once the crew arrived at the Princesa Di Guadiana. The small group of sailors successfully delivered two cases of Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MREs) military rations and several cases of bottled water.



Princesa arrived safely in Monrovia on March 23.



"Swift is fortunate to render help to a fellow mariner," said Commander. Charles Rock, commanding officer of Swift. "It is a shining example of coordination between civilian, military and APS authorities. The assistance we provided truly drives home the value of APS in the region."



"Africa Partnership Station's ability to react quickly to the request for assistance to the distressed vessel highlights the inherent strengths of our multinational and multi-agency approach," said Captain John Nowell, the APS commander.



"We received nearly simultaneous requests from both the U.S. Embassy in Liberia and from the Portuguese Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Lisbon who relayed locating data for the vessel to the APS Portuguese staff officer on board USS Fort McHenry at anchor off Monrovia," Nowell said. "The crew of Swift then executed a text book response despite short notice and darkness. This demonstration of partnership and persistent presence in executing a maritime safety mission is what APS is all about."



As part of the Navy's new global maritime strategy, Africa Partnership Station is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, with a multinational staff aboard Fort McHenry and Swift. Commander Task Force 365 and training teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations are embarked on board Fort McHenry to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea on a seven-month deployment.
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