Saipan, CNMI- USCGC SEQUOIA continues to showcase her worthiness as a multi-mission platform, as demonstrated over the last week by the operations the cutter performed.
SEQUOIA was on patrol to Saipan delivering 18 pallets of Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDR’s) provided by the Red Cross. The HDR’s are used as a critical food source to aid in relief efforts after environmental disasters strike. As the deck crane offloaded several tons of relief supplies, SEQUOIA received a call to respond to a vessel in distress.
Coast Guard Sector Guam coordinated with SEQUOIA to onload supplies needed for the journey, then directed the ship approximately 420 nautical miles west of Guam to respond to the rescue of the crew of Motor Vessel (M/V) RICH FOREST, a 500 foot long log carrier, taking on water in the engine room. The RICH FOREST pumps were unable to contain the flooding and 20-30 knot winds and 12-15 foot seas proved too much for the vessel.
[Crew of the USCGC Sequoia (Commanding Officer Jessica Worst and First Lieutenant Richard Keefauver) joined by Greg M. Villagomez, Operations Supervisor-Saipan Stevedore, John Hirsh, Executive Director-NMI Red Cross, Paul Camacho, Emergency Services Director-Red Cross, Wayne Gillespie, VOAD Chairman.]
Luckily a ship participating in the maritime rescue assistance program AMVER (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System), M/V C. S. SUNSHINE, was nearby and able to pick up the 24 crew members from a life boat after they abandoned ship. USCGC ASSATEAGUE was also sent to respond to the rescue efforts. Upon arrival to the area, ASSATEAGUE began coordinating with SEQUOIA, Sector Guam, and C. S. SUNSHINE to determine the best options for taking the crew of RICH FOREST to safety.
Once on-scene, SEQUOIA took action. The cutter’s crew prepared to take the rescued personnel aboard while ASSATEAGUE’s small boat crew was launched to transport the RICH FOREST personnel from C.S. SUNSHINE to SEQUOIA. Through flawless coordination between all vessels, the survivors from the RICH FOREST were safely transferred to SEQUOIA within two hours.
As SEQUOIA began the transit to Saipan, the cutter passed the RICH FOREST. Both crews stood by the rails as the cutter took pictures to assist with salvage efforts. The vessel was riding low in the water and the RICH FOREST crew looked on their ship with saddened hearts, but consoled by the fact that they were all safe.
Over the next two days the crew from M/V RICH FOREST was given blankets and hygiene items. Crew members of SEQUOIA donated clothing to the new passengers so they would have dry, clean items for the transit back to port. Though the language barrier posed an obstacle, both crews developed a bond; discussing where they were from, finding common interests, and laughing along with movies.
Upon arrival in Saipan, the 24 passengers said their farewells to the SEQUOIA crew, thanking them for the hospitality and for bringing them safely to port. Not long after mooring, SEQUOIA returned underway to complete the original Aids to Navigation (AtoN) mission in the area.
Following the response to the SAR call, SEQUOIA completed routine servicing work on multiple aids in Saipan. AtoN maintenance is crucial to the safety of waterways in and around Guam and CNMI. SEQUOIA is a critical asset in this mission, as no other Coast Guard platform in the area has the heavy lift capabilities to complete the AtoN mission.
In less than seven days, the crew of SEQUOIA was able to deliver thousands of disaster relief meals, transport 24 mariners in distress to safety, and complete several key repairs to navigational markers near Saipan. The varying missions performed by SEQUOIA make her an essential asset to the Coast Guard fleet and a valued resource serving Guam and CNMI.
SEQUOIA, based on Guam, is manned by a crew of 9 officers and 44 enlisted personnel. It is the 15th Juniper Class sea-going buoy tender and the 10th “B-Class” cutter built by Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisconsin. SEQUOIA’s primary missions are maintaining aids to navigation, search and rescue, law enforcement, marine environmental protection and homeland security. She is 225-feet long with twin diesel engines, bow and stern thrusters, and advanced maneuvering capabilities that make her one of the world’s premier buoy-tending platforms.