11 July 2024

Seven crew members of the ill-fated HTMS Sukhothai were found drifting in the Gulf of Thailand today, but only one of them had survived, according to the Chief-of-Staff of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) Admiral Cholathit Navanukroh.

He said that autopsies will be conducted.

Meanwhile, Commander-in-Chief of the RTN, Admiral Choengchai Chomchoenpaet said that the Navy will conduct an investigation to determine the exact cause of the sinking of the vessel and into a report that there were insufficient life vests on board for all 106 crew members.

He insisted that the investigation will be straightforward and transparent.

Admiral Choengchai disclosed some details of events leading up to the sinking of the ship, saying that the HTMS Sukhothai took on a lot of seawater through the bow of the ship, causing damage to the electrical and engine systems. The crew tried to pump the water out, but the inflow was too great.

“When the ship could not pump sufficient water out, it became uncontrollable because the water had flooded the engines and all but one stopped functioning. Control of the rudder was lost and, finally, the ship lost all power, drifting and listing in the sea, as was seen in the media coverage,” said the commander-in-chief.

He said that, when the ship first developed problems, a call for help was sent to the First Area Command and HTMS Kraburi, which was about 32 kilometres away at Bang Saphan deep-sea port, and Kraburi was sent for help, but was hampered by rough seas.

Then, two other ships, Ang Thong and Bhumibol, a plane and a helicopter were also sent to help.  HTMS Sukhothai had listed by about 60 degrees, forcing the captain to give the abandon ship order.

He said that there were six life rafts on the vessel, each could only accommodate 15 men. He also said that the crew did not abandon ship immediately, as they were expecting the arrival of a tug boat to tow their ship to safety.

When the ship listed heavily and started to sink from the stern, chaos broke out because crew who did not have life vests were ordered to use the life rafts while some others were swept into the sea by the waves. Some tried to swim toward HTMS Kraburi and small boats were sent to rescue those in the sea.

About 20 were rescued from their life rafts by a tug boat, a freighter and an oil tanker, which had responded to the ill-fated ship’s SOS signal. 75 crew members were rescued on Sunday with 30 missing, believed to still be drifting at sea.