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The meticulously executed four-hour rescue operation was a credit to all involved.

In the predawn hours of Wednesday, 31 May, a well-executed rescue operation commenced as NSRI Station 3 (Table Bay) crew sprung into action to evacuate a 60-year-old Indonesian ships crewman suffering from a severe medical condition. The mission involved the launch of NSRI Table Bay's rescue craft, Rescue 3, accompanied by two Western Cape Government Health EMS rescue paramedics, who faced a challenging three-meter swell to rendezvous with a bulk carrier motor vessel situated approximately 7 nautical miles off-shore West of Green Point.

Marc de Vos, NSRI Table Bay's coxswain, revealed that the operation was set in motion following an alert received by NSRI Table Bay and EMS Metro Control at 20:58 on Tuesday. The motor vessel, which had been diverted from its deep-sea course, was directed towards Cape Town to facilitate the critical evacuation.


The patient’s condition was reported to be serious, intensifying the urgency of the rescue. “He was an orange on the Triage scale, so it was serious,” says Marc. “He was vomiting, complaining of abdominal pain, and had body shakes.”

To orchestrate the medical evacuation, NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre), NSRI Table Bay duty controllers, TNPA (Transnet National Ports Authority), Police Sea Borderline Control, Telkom Maritime Radio Services, EMS Metro Control, Netcare 911 ambulance services, an EMS duty doctor, and the shipping agent collaborated closely with MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) to ensure seamless coordination and logistical arrangements.

In challenging conditions, the motor vessel - a 229m long bulk carrier - was used to provide a lee to the NSRI rescue craft for drafting alongside the motor vessel, enabling them to come alongside the vessel and facilitate the transfer of rescue crew members, as well as the extraction of the patient.


With two NSRI rescue crew members successfully transferred to the motor vessel, the patient, still in a serious condition, was securely placed in a Stokes basket stretcher and carefully moved onto the NSRI rescue craft through a meticulous technical operation.

“This is done via a system of ropes and pulleys, using techniques developed by NSRI as part of its Maritime Extrication (MEX) programme,” says Marc. “A fundamental difference between this and land-based rope access work is that both platforms are constantly moving, which necessitates some different approaches.”

Under the vigilant care of EMS rescue paramedics, the patient was transported to the Robben Island Gateway Jetty.

Upon arrival, he was swiftly transferred into the expert hands of a Netcare 911 ambulance, which promptly transported him to the hospital.

The efficiency and effectiveness of all parties involved deserve high praise, says Marc. “I would especially like to commend my crew for their conduct on the ship. This is a fairly routine operation for skilled, well-trained crew [the Table Bay crew conduct between five and 10 medevacs annually], but it’s still a risky endeavour involving high-angle gear between two moving vessels.”

Photo credits: Paula Leech and Robert Fine.

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