June 20th 2018

The crew of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS TRENTON participated in a massive rescue mission on June 12, pulling 41 people to safety after their inflatable raft overturned and then caring for them on board the ship for days while Italy debated with other European countries over where the refugees should go.

USNS TRENTON is crewed by members of MM&P, the Marine Engineers’Beneficial Association and the Seafarers International Union.

The TRENTON was conducting routine operations in the Mediterranean when it encountered the migrants in the water about 20 nautical miles off the coast of Libya.

Twelve people reportedly drowned when the raft overturned.

The survivors were taken aboard TRENTON and given food, water and medical care.

The dramatic rescue occurred as another wave of overcrowded vessels set sail for Europe and a new hardline government in Italy announced it would no longer accept fleeing migrants.

After the rescue, the TRENTON asked the rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 to take the survivors on board for transfer to a safe harbor.

Although the crew of Sea-Watch 3 agreed, the transfer did not occur, so on Tuesday the TRENTON got under way for Augusta, Sicily, to bring the survivors to shore.

On Sunday, six days after the rescue, the TRENTON was able to transfer the 41 to Italian Coast Guard vessels off the coast of Lampedusa.

“The pivotal role the shore-side units and personnel play in a rescue at sea cannot be minimized,” said Captain Susan Orsini, the master of the TRENTON and a member of the MM&P Federal Employees Membership Group (FEMG).

“The ship cannot do it alone. Their efforts involve intense and intricate coordination, timely and critical communications to all units and personnel involved.”