One of the tug crew prepares to join his shipmates on HMS Medway's seaboat 07012023 CREDIT Able Seaman Mitchell ‘Jack’ Macguire Royal Navy.jpg
One of the tug crew prepares to join his shipmates on HMS Medway's seaboat (Picture: Able Seaman Mitchell 'Jack' Macguire/Royal Navy).
Navy

Royal Navy patrol ship rescues crew from sinking tug in Caribbean

One of the tug crew prepares to join his shipmates on HMS Medway's seaboat 07012023 CREDIT Able Seaman Mitchell ‘Jack’ Macguire Royal Navy.jpg
One of the tug crew prepares to join his shipmates on HMS Medway's seaboat (Picture: Able Seaman Mitchell 'Jack' Macguire/Royal Navy).

The crew of a Royal Navy warship rescued five people after their ocean-going tug sank in choppy seas in the Caribbean.

HMS Medway – the Royal Navy's permanent vessel in the region – saved the crew members who had taken refuge on a large barge of sand their tug was towing when it began to flood.

The warship responded to the tug's SOS message, which was sent at about 17:00 UK time on Friday, 6 January, while it was 20 miles west of the island of Sint Maarten, near the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.

Patrol ship HMS Medway, with her 50 crew, was little more than a dozen miles away and picked up the Mayday straight away.

Despite warm weather, 26°C, a Navy spokesman said "the weather was squally with gusts of 30 knots, heavy showers and waves of up to 5ft, which put the rescue at the limits of Medway's sea boat".

The patrol ships' boatswain Petty Officer (Seaman Specialist) Sarah Griffiths said: "Whilst we were cautious as we made our approach to the barge and tug, we were able to reassure the crew and transfer them clear of the barge safely.

"They were hugely grateful."

The tug crew shelter on the barge as HMS Medway's sea boat arrives 07012023 Able Seaman Mitchell ‘Jack’ Macguire Royal Navy.jpg
The tug crew shelter on the barge as HMS Medway's sea boat arrives (Picture: Able Seaman Mitchell 'Jack' Macguire/Royal Navy).

The five crew were described as uninjured but shaken and were transferred to a search-and-rescue boat which took them to shore at Anguilla.

Lieutenant Commander Carla Higgins, Medway's executive officer, said: "The whole ship's company leapt into action as soon as we made the decision to respond.

"The swift thinking and actions of the team were fantastic and we were thankful to be conducting routine maritime security operations in the area to become the on-scene commander working with the local authorities and assist the crew to safety."

The stricken tug with the crew huddled on the bow of the sand barge it was towing 07012023 CREDIT Able Seaman Mitchell ‘Jack’ Macguire Royal Navy.jpg
The stricken tug with the crew huddled on the bow of the sand barge it was towing (Picture: Able Seaman Mitchell 'Jack' Macguire/Royal Navy).

Although low in the water, the tug had not sunk when Medway left the area to resume her maiden patrol of 2023.

The ship operates across the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic all year round.

It supports British Overseas Territories in the region, providing assistance in the wake of natural disasters (especially during the Atlantic hurricane season), and working with regional authorities to tackle the illegal narcotics trade.

Watch: HMS Medway helps with humanitarian efforts in Caribbean following Hurricane Ian.

Last autumn the ship intercepted a £24m cocaine shipment in a combined operation with the US Coast Guard and provided assistance in the wake of the two strongest storms to strike the Caribbean, Hurricanes Fiona and Ian.

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