The Indonesian authority BASARNAS is reporting that two merchant ships collided possibly in bad weather with one of the vessels, a vehicle carrier sinking. They conducted an operation aided by a passing vessel rescuing 17 crewmembers from the sinking ship.
The vehicle carrier Serasi I was built in 1990 and the 32-year-old vessel was operating regularly on a route between Patimban Port in Subang, West Java and Belawan Port in Medan, North Sumatra. The vessel was transiting the 134-mile-long Bangka Strait east of the island of Sumatra overnight. Initial reports from the SAR agency cited possible bad weather but later mentioned human error as the possible cause of the accident.
The Serasi I reportedly struck a general cargo ship also transiting the strait. The vessel was the Batanghari Mas, a 12-year-old cargo ship. The 3,250 dwt vessel is reported to be continuing to the port of Palembang where SAR officials plan to inspect the ship and interview the captain.
After the collision, the captain of the vehicle carrier reported that his ship was taking water in the forward section and that he was planning on running the vessel aground. However, a short time later he radioed the officials reporting that the vessel was sinking and that the 17 crewmembers were abandoning ship.
BASARNAS reports they dispatched two rescue vessels. The 17 crewmembers were initially taken aboard a passing vessel and later transferred by the SAR teams to shore. They reported that 12 of the crewmembers were uninjured but that five needed to be taken to a local medical facility for treatment of their injuries suffered during the evacuation.
“The latest information we received was that there were 497 vehicles including heavy equipment onboard the Serasi I. To be sure, we are waiting for the captain of the ship,” said the Commander of the Muntok SAR Post Alert Unit.
A full investigation is underway.