U.S. saves eight Iraqis on sinking oil-smuggling tanker detained in Gulf
Stars and Stripes November 1, 2003
Eight Iraqis were rescued after their boat sank Wednesday in a detention area for oil smugglers in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. and Australian naval forces saved all mariners aboard the Al Huda when it sank at about 5 p.m. The cause of the sinking is under investigation.
“They’re looking at everything from bad weather to the seaworthiness of the vessel,” said Lt. Garrett D. Kasper, U.S. 5th Fleet spokesman.
Seas were rough, with 8- to-10-foot waves and winds gusting up to 30 knots.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Adak, deployed to Bahrain, and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat from the Australian frigate HMAS Newcastle saved the men. An SH-60 Seahawk helicopter dispatched by the San Diego-based frigate, USS Jarrett, assisted, and the Italian amphibious landing ship, San Giusto, was on station to assist with communications and first aid.
The eight Iraqis are in good condition. One was treated for hypothermia and another was treated for exposure to the vessel’s spilled fuel.
Kasper said the Iraqi judicial system will decide what to do with the men, who remain aboard the USS Germantown, a San Diego-based dock landing ship.
The vessel had been detained by coalition forces off the coast of Iraq since Oct. 7. The Coalition Provisional Authority found it guilty of smuggling 52 metric tons of oil out of Iraq, Kasper said.
At any given time, there are as many as two dozen ships detained in the area, ranging from small wooden dhows to commercial tanking vessels, said Kasper, who couldn’t release the size of the area for security reasons.
Coalition forces, who oversee the zone, make regular health-and-comfort boardings on the detained ships.
“They go out and make sure the crew has enough food and fresh water and there are no medical issues,” Kasper said.