The U.S. Coast Guard reported rescuing 13 Chinese citizens off the coast of Guam on June 23, 2024.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported rescuing 13 Chinese citizens off the coast of Guam on June 23, 2024. (U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micrones)

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 13 Chinese boaters over the weekend off the coast of Guam after their boat went adrift, according to a spokeswoman for the service. 

The boaters called 911 on Sunday morning after their 23-foot-recreational vessel, the Helen, ran out of gas, according to a statement that day from Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sara Muir, spokeswoman for U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. 

Watchstanders dispatched a 45-foot medium response boat and crew from Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor and located the boaters about 15 miles north of Guam. Weather conditions were mild, with no watches or warnings in effect, according to Muir. 

Coast Guardsmen took all 13 boaters - 10 women and three men - aboard the response boat and brought them to Hagatna. Several of the boaters were severely seasick, and one was severely dehydrated, but they all refused treatment from Guam Fire Rescue, according to the statement.

“Even with good weather conditions, having 13 people on a 23-foot boat can be risky. Our seamless collaboration with Guam Fire Rescue and other agencies ensured a swift and effective response,” said Coast Guard Lt. Chelse Garcia, rescue coordinator, in the statement. “This incident highlights the necessity of having reliable communication devices and lifejackets aboard, as they can make all the difference in emergencies.”

Once in Hagatna, agents from the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Guam Police Department and Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, met with the boaters and confirmed they were Chinese citizens, according to Muir. 

Muir did not respond to an email request for additional details, including the boaters’ intended destination, as of Monday afternoon. 

Chinese citizens over the past several years have regularly used the island of Saipan, part of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth, as a gateway for illegal immigration into Guam, which is about 120 miles southwest of Saipan. 

Guam Customs and Quarantine has reported at least 118 unlawful or attempted unlawful entries to Guam by Chinese citizens since 2022, agency spokeswoman Alana Chargualaf-Afaisen told Stars and Stripes in February. 

Saipan offers a visa waiver program that allows Chinese citizens to stay up to two weeks and citizens of other countries to stay up to 45 days.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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