The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is joining Ukrainian and Croatian maritime unions in demanding that the search for seven missing seafarers continue in the mid-Atlantic following the sinking of the Bourbon Rhode vessel.
On October 14, ITF maritime coordinator Jacqueline Smith directly called on the French government to continue search and rescue operations and redeploy all resources.
Smith also called on the US and other nations to provide assistance in the search while there is a prospect that the seven missing seafarers can be found alive.
“As Croatia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs said earlier this week, not all options have been exhausted. Together with our affiliates, the Seafarers Union of Croatia and the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union of Ukraine, we demand that the search continues while there is still a glimmer of hope that the missing seafarers are alive,” Smith said.
The Luxembourg-flagged anchor handling tug (AHT) – crewed by 14 Ukrainian, Russian, South African, Filipino and Croatian seafarers – sank at the end of September after it was hit by the category 4 hurricane “Lorenzo”.
At the time of the incident, the vessel was in transit around 1,200 nautical miles off the French Martinique island and 60 nautical miles from the eye of the hurricane.
Search and rescue operations coordinated by the Regional Operational Centre of Surveillance and Rescue (CROSS) since September 26 have resulted in the recovery of a lifeboat with three Ukrainian survivors, as well as recovering the bodies of four seafarers. Since October 1, no more survivors or bodies have been found.
However, the three rescued Ukrainian seafarers have confirmed that some of the missing seven crew members succeeded in entering a life raft and there is a possibility that they are still alive.
Additionally, on October 8, two seafarers onboard the Alp Striker reported that they had seen what could have been a distress flare, and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) informed authorities of an unknown object spotted via satellite could be a life raft.
Despite these reports, French authorities announced that search operations would be scaled down.
Consequently, families and friends of the missing Bourbon Rhode seafarers have launched a petition urging authorities to continue the search for the missing Croatian master and six Ukrainian crew members. The petition has been so far signed by more than 44 thousand people.