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Nautilus member rescues fisherman in Gulf of Guinea

13 December 2021

On 5 November Nautilus member Anthony 'Tony' Nicholas rescued a stranded fisherman, Oussaman Sarr, off the coast of Senegal.

Mr Nicholas was serving as master of the MV Inyanga Entsha when, while having his morning coffee, he spotted a figure waving back at him approximately 50nm south west of Dakar, Senegal. He knew something was wrong at that very moment: 'I just saw this fishing boat. As we got closer to it, you could see him waving but normally people wave with one hand, but this guy was waving with two hands. I said to the chief mate "something's not right there," then the next thing we saw him jump in the water.'

Oussman Sarr in fishing boat.
Image: Anthony Nicholas

Tony then made the decision to keep following the fishing boat, maintaining distance because he couldn't be sure that there was not a risk of a pirate attack: 'You don't know whether he's a pirate because they do hide under the boards.'

He knew he couldn't just leave the man because there was no one else with him. The Inyanga Entsha had crew from Cameroon onboard that could speak French, so they then translated and asked the fisherman to strip down to make sure he had no hidden guns. Upon finding no weapons, they lifted the old boat and they helped the fisherman onboard.

They provided him with water, food and medical attention from one of the engineers.

Mr Nicholas says there were piracy concerns, as they were still sailing through the piracy red zone, this affected monitoring Mr Sarr onboard until they had further information: 'We were right in the Gulf of Guinea, and about 20 miles from us there was an attack, we just switched all our navigation lights off. We were in complete darkness.

'I was still wary. I said to the lads, listen, do not leave him alone in the crew mess or anything. You've got to think of these things, especially where we were.

'We had an idea he was from Senegal just because of our location. We were about 50 miles south-west of Dakar.' Mr Nicholas then got in contact with Dakar Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) and once he provided them with Mr Sarr's first name they knew instantly who the stranded fisherman was.

'I didn't even get to the Sarr. They said they had been looking for him for seven or eight days. He was presumed dead.'

Once Mr Nicholas knew from a security perspective that everything was fine, he invited Mr Nicholas to the bridge and tried to make him feel more welcome. The pair even bonded over their shared interest in football. Mr Sarr also managed to get in contact with his brother using the ship's satellite phone.

'I passed the phone straight to him and the next thing you know he breaks down in tears sobbing. But it was more joy than upset because he probably just thought he was never going to see his family again. Everyone was a bit choked on the bridge.'

The crew dropped Mr Sarr at Dakar port and he was reunited with his family.

'The next day we were having a barbecue on the ship and we were all talking about it. It dawned on us that we just saved a life there.'

Inyanga Maritime posted a statement on LinkedIn about the event congratulating Tony and crew on the rescue: 'Well done to Tony Nicholas and crew for their compassion in saving this man's life and returning him to his family.'

Mr Nicholas's career at sea began at 16, working on ferries in Dover. He attended the National Sea College at Gravesend. He worked as an AB for 17 years, until he decided to 'up the ante' and got his second officer qualification, becoming a master in 2015.


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