Panamanian ship rescued in the South China Sea

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A Panamanian cargo ship that broke down while sailing across the South China Sea has been towed to an area off the coast of South China's Guangdong province, according to the Ministry of Transport.

Boatswain Lu Daming (right) leads one of his sailors in the rescue operation of a Panamanian cargo ship on the South China Sea on March 4. [Photo/China Daily]

The vessel reached the Pearl River estuary sea area on Monday following a painstaking rescue effort — which lasted 10 days amid high winds at sea — carried out by the ministry's South China Sea rescue bureau, the ministry said in a media release.

All 21 members of the ship's crew were found safe, the ministry said.

At about 2 pm on March 3, the bureau received a report that a Panamanian cargo ship had experienced engine failure in the early hours of that day near Nansha Islands, and the crew could not fix the problem. Without a working engine, the ship had drifted 90 nautical miles south by the time the bureau received the report, according to the ministry.

A rescue ship on standby close to the Yongshu reef was sent to aid the stranded vessel and reached it the next day. The windy weather that day, which stirred up waves as high as 6 meters, made the rescue effort particularly challenging, the ministry said.

After four hours of trying, rescuers managed to hook the two vessels together and spent the next nine days towing the cargo ship 1,100 nautical miles, it added.

Since Chinese rescuers were first stationed at reefs in the South China Sea in July 2018, they have carried out 69 such rescue missions, saving 294 people and recovering 17 vessels with assets worth more than 1.4 billion yuan ($203 million), according to figures provided by the ministry.

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