USS VELLA GULF, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) assisted a fishing vessel in distress, Feb. 8, while conducting counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
An SH-60B helicopter from the "Proud Warriors" of embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, encountered the dhow which appeared to be dead in the water. The crew, which consisted of eight civilians, two Yemeni and six Somali fishermen, were having engine trouble and were out of fuel, batteries and water.
"We became aware of the fact that a dhow was in trouble," said Capt. Mark D. Genung, Vella Gulf's commanding officer. "My helicopter, which was doing surveillance, found a dhow that was dead in the water and the crew was signaling them by waving an orange international symbol saying that they were in trouble."
Genung said they immediately closed in, and the crew, who did not speak English, made Vella Gulf Sailors realize they were having a problem with their batteries. Vella Gulf used one of its rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIB) to send a rescue and assistance team and evaluate the status of the dhow.
"They had a make-shift sail up on a ship that should have had a motor running, and we decided we were going to render aid to the vessel," said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Matthew Monaco, a VBSS team member. "We had our rescue assistance team along with the VBSS team board one of our RHIB's along with medical personnel. The VBSS team boarded the ship first to conduct initial safety inspections."
The boarding team was able to identify the issue with the vessel's engine and have some of the ship's engineers attempt repairs. Additionally, the dhow was out of fuel and water, and the batteries were in need of charge.
"We provided them fuel and gave them good, fresh water," said Genung. "We evaluated their medical condition and also attempted repairs to ensure that the diesel engine would run. Unfortunately, the batteries that started the diesel were dead, and because it was getting close to sunset, we towed the ship to Yemeni territorial waters, because that was their destination.
Overnight, we then recharged all their batteries, and at the crack of dawn we put our team back in the RHIB and with a great deal of satisfaction got their engine started on the first attempt."
"We provided the ship with about 100 gallons of fuel and about 60 gallons water," said Chief Engineman Ian R. Moore, one of the rescue assistance team members.
"We just happened to be in the right place at the right time and were able to help get the dhow back underway.
"It was really gratifying to see the looks on their faces when we got their engines started and they started getting underway on their own power. I could tell they were very grateful for that."
U.S. and coalition forces have a long standing tradition of helping mariners in distress by providing medical assistance, engineering assistance and search and rescue efforts.
Vella Gulf (CG 72) is the flagship for CTF 151, a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.