Apra Harbor, GU — U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam continued to respond to assist the 24 crewmembers who abandoned ship after their cargo vessel engine room flooded.
On the morning of January 22, 2014, Coast Guard Cutter (CGC) SEQUOIA arrived on-scene with the C.S. SUNSHINE and CCG ASSATEAGUE. The 24 survivors were safely transferred from C.S. SUNSHINE to SEQUOIA. C.S. SUNSHINE has been released from the case and will continue its voyage to Japan. SEQUOIA and ASSATAGUE conducted a final visual assessment of the RICH FOREST, before departing for the islands of Saipan, Common Wealth of Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. The RICH FOREST is reported to be riding low at the stern, but still afloat.
SEQUOIA is expected to arrive in Saipan during the morning of January 24 where the survivors will be met by DHS Homeland Security Investigations for processing. ASSATAGUE will make its way back to its homeport of Guam. RICH FOREST owner has continued to pursue options for salvaging the vessel.
On January 20, Sector Guam received a report from owner of the vessel RICH FOREST that it was taking on water approximately 420 nautical miles west of Guam. RICH FOREST is a 500-foot, Panama flagged, container ship with 24 Chinese nationals aboard. The vessel was loaded with timber en route China from Solomon Islands. The vessel reportedly was taking on water in the engine room and pumps were not able to keep up with the rate of flooding. The RICH FOREST experienced 13 foot seas and 20 to 30 knot winds. RICH FOREST crew abandoned ship into life rafts and were recovered by Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) vessel, C.S. SUNSHINE. CGC ASSATEAGUE arrived on-scene on January 21 and SEQUOIA arrived a day later on January 22.
During the initial response, Sector Guam contacted four AMVER vessels (C. S. SUNSHINE, ANDROMEDA VOYAGER, CORONA JOYFUL, and ANTONIS I) that volunteered to divert and assist the RICH FOREST. A CGC was launched from Guam and another was diverted from Saipan. A fixed wing aircraft from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan was identified to support the search and rescue mission, but was stood down after the survivors were recovered by C.S. SUNSHINE.