17 September 2008

m/v antalina crew safe; reportedly returned to port arthur, texas

when we first learned of the plight of the m/v antalina, a freighter ship stranded at sea without power and forced to ride out hurricane ike, our thoughts and prayers immediately went out to the crew.

it brought back to mind our u.s. navy days when we were returning to our homeport at naval station norfolk, virginia from naval station guantanamo bay cuba. at gitmo, our ship and crew had just undergone intensive eight week refresher training (reftra) which was pretty awful itself.

somewhere between cuba and norfolk we went through a tropical depression or tropical storm or hurricane dont remember which one, (probably tropical storm andrew) but even it it was just a 'mere' tropical depression or disturbance -- that was more than enough to make you never want to experience anything like it again.

despite the fury of the sea, we never were in fear for our lives in that our ship was going to fail us by capsizing or breaking apart and sinking. our ship an 11,500 ton, nuclear powered guided missile cruiser which had just undergone an 18 month long complex overhaul (coh) by the good men and women at the norfolk naval shipyard, portsmouth virginia, (hence the reason we were undergoing reftra) was at the top of her game. we were at the top of our game back then too.

one of the necessary precautions that the old man ordered was material condition zulu set throughout the ship. this meant that all of the watertight doors and hatches had to be shut and dogged down. this made it even more of a challenge to get around as you had to stop and open a watertight door then close it and dog it down behind you. try doing this about every thirty feet whilst enduring heavy pitches and rolls.

what was most interesting about the whole experience was going up and down ladder wells. when the ship heaved upward you would feel heavy like a weight was pushing down against you. then when the ship came crashing down you would feel very light and could almost fly up the ladder. this effect was most pronounced the more forward you were.

so while our experience riding out a storm at sea was harrowing, we could only imagine what the men of the m/v antalina were going through. especially, with it being reported that their ship had no power, propulsion and loss of steerage.

that storm wasnt the most frightening experience we had in the navy. the most frightening event was a flood and fire in the number one emergency diesel generator room. the no.1 edg was a rather large space slightly forward and below our berthing compartment. it contained a huge diesel engine perhaps, the size of a diesel locomotive engine.

late one night
a hatch or valve or something broke down there and the flooding caused a class charlie fire. a shipmate, a turd chaser from new jersey, nearly drowned making repairs. he had to be medevaced off the ship. the next time the eagle shit his division officer was on the mess deck taking up a collection for his family who had came in to be with him. his d.o. told us that due to the extent of our shipmates injuries and oxygen deprivation he was reduced to a comatose, vegetative state.

wst... note: prior to posting we spoke by telephone to mr. ronald hixson with the port of port arthur texas. mr. hixson told us that the m/v antalina "is not physically at the port of port arthur" meaning that she isnt tied up at a dock there. the antalina could be anchored offshore though.

(CNN) -- A tugboat on Saturday [13 september 2008] reached a disabled freighter carrying 22 people, hours after the ship road out Hurricane Ike without power, Coast Guard spokesman Mike O'Berry said.

O'Berry said the tugboat Rotterdam arrived shortly before 2 p.m. (3 p.m. ET).

Repairs will be made aboard the Antalina, which has a broken fuel pump, while at sea, O'Berry said.

The tugboat will then tow the ship to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will undergo additional repairs and eventually offload more of its cargo -- petroleum coke, a petroleum byproduct -- O'Berry said.

The crew members aboard the Antalina, a Cypriot-flagged freighter, are all in good health, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Ron Labrec.

The freighter suffered no major damage from the storm, said Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for the company that manages the ship.

Aircraft from the Coast Guard and Air Force were sent Friday afternoon to try to rescue the crew of the freighter. But high winds forced the military to abort the rescue, O'Berry said.

The Coast Guard then instructed the freighter to contact it each hour. It also told told the crew to turn on the ship's emergency radio beacon so its position could be monitored, O'Berry said.
The stranded freighter had been headed south through the Gulf of Mexico from Port Arthur, Texas, but "lost main propulsion 90 miles southeast of Galveston" and was unable to steer, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard received a distress call from the vessel at 4 a.m. Friday. The Antalina was "basically adrift, at the mercy of the wind and sea currents," Coast Guard Petty Officer Tom Atkeson said at the time.

"We are in hell," one of the men aboard the freighter told CNN on Friday before the rescue was called off. The man said the winds around the ship were strong but that the freighter still had power. ~ read more