Posted on March 12, 2019
Royal Navy personnel responded to a mayday from the 28,000-tonne Italian merchant ship, Grande America, in the Bay of Biscay, around 150 miles southwest of Brest. “We could see the vessel was in a pretty bad state,” Lieutenant Commander David Tetchner said. “The fire was spreading from one container to the other. It was getting quite vicious.” The ship’s crew were unable to fight the flames and were abandoning the ship. “At some point, the fire got too extreme and the Master of the vessel decided that they were going to have to abandon ship,” explained Lieutenant Commander Tetchner.
Sailors from HMS Argyll spent eight hours saving every person on board Grande America, the Royal Navy confirmed. The frigate was on her way home to Plymouth after a nine-month deployment in the Asia-Pacific region when they responded to the call.
Despite difficult sea conditions, HMS Argyll launched her sea boat and helped Grande America’s crew climb onboard their lifeboat which had smashed into the heavy seas as it launched. “We put one of our sea boats into the water. It made its way to the stricken vessel and the lifeboat with 27 crew in it,” the HMS Argyll’s Weapon Engineer Office said.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “HMS Argyll’s swift and selfless response to a very dangerous situation in difficult conditions undoubtedly saved 27 lives. I commend her crew. This rescue demonstrates that even on the final leg of a challenging nine-month deployment to the Far East, the Royal Navy’s sailors remain vigilant and professional at all times.”