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The U.S. Coast Guard was called to assist a cargo ship taking on water after it had departed San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a Mayday VHF radio transmission on Channel 16 from the Captain of the MV Island Express, a Cyprus flagged 412-foot roll-on/roll-off cargo ship, reporting that there was a possible broken pipe in the engine room and that approximately 75 percent of the bilges were full of water.
The ship with an 18-man had just departed the Port of San Juan for storm avoidance in anticipation of what was then Tropical Cyclone 9.
Watchstanders directed the launch of two 33-foot small boats and a 45-foot Response Boat Medium from Station San Juan that got underway to the scene. A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter also dispatched.
The Coast Guard crews escorted the ship back to San Juan with seas reported to be 8 to 10 feet.
Sector San Juan Prevention personnel coordinated with the San Juan Bay Pilots and two Puerto Rico Towing tugboats to rendezvous with the Island Express at the entrance of San Juan Harbor. The tugboats escorted the MV Island Express to Pier 15, where the vessel safely moored and the crew was able to finalize dewatering of the bilge spaces.
“Despite the impending tropical storm and all Station San Juan small boats securely out of the water for an incoming storm, our boat crews responded immediately to launch two 33-foot small boats from their trailers and the 45-foot Response Boat Medium utilizing the mobile boat hoist” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Lance Wiser, Station San Juan officer in charge. “The teamwork and training of Station operators allowed these evolutions to safely take place simultaneously which led to all three assets arriving on scene with the distressed vessel within 45 minutes. The sea conditions on scene were pushing the parameters of the small boats but the crews endured and the distressed vessel was escorted safety into the harbor.”
The MV Island Express and its 18-man crew is now safely moored in San Juan Harbor.
The Coast Guard set Port Condition ZULU at 12 p.m. Wednesday for all ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico due to the forecasted arrival gale force winds within 12 hours. During Port Condition ZULU, the ports will remain closed to all vessel traffic unless specifically authorized by the Captain of the Port, while vessel cargo operations are suspended, including bunkering and lightering.
The National Hurricane Center latest report on Thursday showed TS Isaias centered just off the coast of the Dominican Republic with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. A Flash Flood Warning remains in place in Puerto Rico until 1530 AST.
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