19 crew members from the South Korean-flagged bulk carrier JS Comet simultaneously came down with an apparent case of debilitating food poisoning off Port Canaveral while a Tropical Storm Arthur churned just to their east yesterday.
An unconfirmed report indicates the crew may have eaten some bad barracuda, a fish that is particularly likely to contain ciguatoxin.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration:
“Initial signs of poisoning occur within six hours after consumption of toxic fish and include perioral numbness and tingling (paresthesia), which may spread to the extremities, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Neurological signs include intensified paresthesia, arthralgia, myalgia, headache, temperature sensory reversal and acute sensitivity to temperature extremes, vertigo, and muscular weakness to the point of prostration. Cardiovascular signs include arrhythmia, bradycardia or tachycardia, and reduced blood pressure. Ciguatera poisoning is usually self-limiting, and signs of poisoning often subside within several days from onset. However, in severe cases the neurological symptoms are known to persist from weeks to months.”
The 35 knot winds and five to 6-foot seas forced the U.S. Coast Guard to evacuate 19 of the sick crewmembers from the 584-foot vessel by helicopter leaving only two of the original crew aboard.
The ship remains at anchor off the beach under a Captain of the Port Order, which prohibits it to enter any U.S. port of call until the following conditions are met.
- The U.S. Coast Guard determines the nature of the illness and the expected duration.
- Vessel shall have a minimum of three harbor safety tugs immediately available to assist in the event that the vessel starts to drag anchor.
- Provide credential mariners to assist in anchor watch to include at least one navigational officer, one deckhand or able seaman and one engineer.
- Maintain an hourly communication schedule with Sector Jacksonville command center to report position, crew status and any other safety concerns via VHF radio.
- Vessel minimum safe manning requirements are adequately satisfied to ensure the safe operation of the vessel when it has been cleared to depart.
“The health and well-being of the ill crewmembers was our top priority,” said Capt. Tom Allan, commanding officer and captain of the port for Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. “Our responders performed extraordinarily in challenging conditions to get the sick crewmembers to the hospital. We are coordinating with the company to identify qualified personnel to operate the vessel, mitigate the maritime environmental risks and ensure the public’s safety.”
The 35,362 ton dwt vessel is managed by Seoul-based ShippingBank Co Ltd. and was built in 1999.
Here’s some video of the rescue: