MIAMI — Nineteen sick crewmembers aboard the 584-foot cargo ship JS Comet were hoisted Tuesday evening from their anchored vessel 3 miles off Port Canaveral, Florida.
Two MH-60 helicopter crews safely hoisted the crewmembers from the vessel in 35 knot winds and five to 6-foot seas associated with Tropical Storm Arthur. Due to deteriorating weather conditions and the crew's symptoms worsening, the Coast Guard determined the safest course of action was to evacuate the patients via helicopter rather than a Coast Guard smallboat.
The JS Comet crew became ill early Tuesday reportedly suffering food poisoning like symptoms, and following consultation with the Center for Disease Control and a Coast Guard flight surgeon and other medical professionals, the decision was made to transport the 19 crewmembers to a local area hospital.
Two crewmembers from the JS Comet not experiencing illness remain aboard the vessel which is under a Captain of the Port Order, which prohibits the 584-foot South Korean-flagged cargo ship to enter any U.S. port of call until the following conditions are met.
Under the authority of Ports and Waterways Safety Act, the motor vessel JS Comet is prohibited to enter any port and remain at anchor outside of Port Canaveral until the following conditions are met:
•The U.S. Coast Guard determines the nature of the illness and the expected duration.
•Vessel shall have a minimum of three harbor safety tugs immediately available to assist in the event that the vessel starts to drag anchor.
•Provide credential mariners to assist in anchor watch to include at least one navigational officer, one deckhand or able seaman and one engineer.
•Maintain an hourly communication schedule with Sector Jacksonville command center to report position, crew status and any other safety concerns via VHF radio.
•Vessel minimum safe manning requirements are adequately satisfied to ensure the safe operation of the vessel when it has been cleared to depart.
"The health and well-being of the ill crewmembers was our top priority," said Capt. Tom Allan, commanding officer and captain of the port for Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. "Our responders performed extraordinarily in challenging conditions to get the sick crewmembers to the hospital. We are coordinating with the company to identify qualified personnel to operate the vessel, mitigate the maritime environmental risks and ensure the public's safety."