Message from the AFRAS President

AFRAS President Charles “Skip” Bowen, left, presents the C-Port Award to Capt. Nathan Lins, TowBoat U.S., Catalina, at a ceremony in January.

Supporters of AFRAS! It has been an exciting year so far for the Association! For starters, we have been able to donate well over $28,000 to the Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR), supporting their efforts to reconstitute their capability following last year’s tremendous hurricane that impacted the Caribbean.

In addition, congratulations to Mr. Mark Cianciolo, Mr. Fair Kim and Mr. Joe Re for joining the AFRAS Board. Mark Cianciolo, a retired Marine Corps Colonel, brings a wealth of experience to the Board representing McMurdo, Inc., a huge supporter of AFRAS. Retired Coast Guard Captain Joe Re also joined our team. Joe joined Sev1Tech as the Director of Mission Solutions after a long and exemplary career in the U.S. Coast Guard. Fair Kim, a retired Coast Guard Commander, brings to AFRAS an extensive operational service background, as well as expertise in maritime policy objectives through his work at the Coast Guard’s Office of Legislative Affairs, and now his position as Policy Director and Counsel for the non-profit American Maritime Congress, in Washington DC.

Next, I would like to congratulate all of our 2018 award recipients. They will be recognized at our annual Association for Rescue at Sea award reception, set for Thursday the 13th of September on Capitol Hill.

Finally, I will be stepping down as President of AFRAS at the end of my term in September. It has been a true privilege to serve the last three years. However, all organizations need fresh perspective from time to time and it is time for me to step down. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish. I will remain part of this fantastic organization as a Director. Stay tuned for the announcement of a new President, and thank you!

Maritime Search and Rescue Award Winners Selected

U.S. Coast Guard aviation rescue swimmer and victims aboard a Coast Guard helicopter during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in the greater Houston, Texas, metro area Aug. 28, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.
U.S. Coast Guard aviation rescue swimmer and victims aboard a Coast Guard helicopter during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in the greater Houston, Texas, metro area Aug. 28, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland.

We are proud to announce the winners of our 2018 maritime search and rescue awards. Our Board of Directors pored through numerous submissions, detailing heroic rescues, throughout the first half of the year, selecting the following for honors:

Vice Admiral Thomas Sargent III Gold Medal: U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Third Class Brendan T. Kiley and Aviation Survival Technician First Class Matthew Silvious, for two separate rescues;

Chairman’s Award: U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary crewmembers from District 13 Flotillas 8-2 and 8-4;

Amver Award: Captain and crew of the m/v Joanna;

Amver Special Award: Captain and crew of the m/v Hercules Leader;

Cruise Ship Humanitarian Award: Captain and crew of the Carnival Elation;

C-Port Award: Captain Nathan Lins, of TowBoat U.S., Catalina;

CAR/SAR Award: Crewmembers of the Domincan Naval Auxiliary Santo Domingo Flotilla and Air Unit.

We will feature individual stories here on the blog about all these rescues in the coming days, as we lead up to our annual Capitol Hill Gold Medal ceremony in Washington DC, Sep. 13, at which many of these honorees will be presented their awards.

AFRAS supports RNLI at United Nation’s Gala for “Just One Inch of Water” Campaign


His Excellency, Vitavas Srivihok, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN from Thailand discusses the Rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the cave where they have been trapped.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

RNLI along with the Group of Friends on Drowning Prevention held the opening of a photo exhibition in the Great Hall of the United Nations to highlight one of the major loss of life causes. Drowning takes 370,000 lives each year and in parts of Asia and Africa it is one of the highest mortality statistic but is not being given the attention of both government or the press.

RNLI is trying to change the status quo, and the cure after recognition doesn’t take lots of money.


(l-r) AFRAS Chairman Dana Goward, James Vaughan, International Director for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Wayne Spivak, AFRAS Vice-President and CIO


Gold medal awarded to Coast Guard boatswain’s mate for 2016 rescue off Long Beach

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Grays Harbor, stood for a photo in front of the station on Aug. 9. Hylkema has been selected to receive the 2016 Association for Rescue at Sea gold medal for his extraordinary heroism on the night of Oct. 6, 2016, during the rescue of the master of the sailing vessel Grace in the Pacific Ocean west of the Long Beach Peninsula.-U.S. Coast Guard photo

From the Chinook Observer

SEATTLE — The Coast Guard announced Wednesday that the Association for Rescue at Sea has selected Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Hylkema, a boatswain’s mate at Station Grays Harbor, to receive the 2016 AFRAS Gold Medal for a rescue offshore the Long Beach Peninsula.

The AFRAS Gold Medal is awarded annually to a Coast Guard enlisted member who exhibited exceptional courage and heroism during a rescue at sea.

Hylkema is cited for extraordinary heroism on the night of Oct. 6, 2016, while serving as a crewmember aboard the 52-foot Motor Lifeboat Invincible, during the rescue of the master of the sailing vessel Grace.
The Grace was transiting from Tacoma to San Francisco when it was caught in a storm off Long Beach. “Considering weather conditions and structurally weak deck, it was decided to have the master wear an immersion suit, anchor the vessel, then evacuate into the water to be pulled to safety,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. “Unfortunately, the master’s legs became wrapped in the heaving line, with only a life ring keeping the master’s head above water.”

Hylkema volunteered to deploy as a surface swimmer. He battled 18- to 20-foot breaking seas and swam more than 150 feet to the master in order to cut him free. Hylkema remained in the water as the MLB crew recovered the barely coherent master first.

“I’m honored daily to work with some of the finest men and women in the Coast Guard, and I am extremely proud of Hylkema’s heroism to freely give of himself in such a way as to bring honor to his family, those he serves with, and the Coast Guard,” said Chief Warrant Officer Cheston Evans, commanding officer, Station Grays Harbor.

The award will be presented to Hylkema at a ceremony held at the Rayburn Congressional Office Building, Washington, D.C., on Sept. 26.

The motor life boat used in this rescue is one of four in the Coast Guard, with each being more than 50 years old. “These unique vessels are all located in the Pacific Northwest and each is known for its exceptional sea-keeping and rescue capabilities that far exceed that of the newer vessels when facing breaking surf and hurricane force winds,” the Coast Guard said. The four vessels are named Invincible, Triumph, Victory and Intrepid and are stationed in Grays Harbor, Cape Disappointment, Yaquina Bay and Coos Bay. They are the only Coast Guard vessels smaller than 65-feet in length that have official names.

Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation

Our Chairman, Dana Goward is quoted in this article that appears not onlyin Reuters, but the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“LONDON (Reuters) – The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships’ satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology.

Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers.”

1300 Rescued, Nearly 150 Feared Lost, 97 Missing – You Can Help!

Migrants onboard a drifting overcrowded wooden boat react during a rescue operation by the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, north of the Libyan city of Sabratha in central Mediterranean Sea, March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Volunteer rescue services are working hard in the area every day to prevent loss of life. AFRAS can help US taxpayers make donations to the brave volunteers working in the Mediterranean and around the world to save lives. To Help Donate Here.

Here are three recent stories of success and tragedy.

More than 1300 migrants rescued in one day

Nearly 150 migrants feared dead after boat sinks, sole survivor says

97 Migrants Reported Missing After Boat Sinks Off Libya



Bodies of 74 Migrants Wash Ashore in Libya

Photo: Intl Red Cross, Red Crescent Middle East & North Africa

Editor’s note:  AFRAS supports volunteer maritime rescue services trying to prevent such tragedies. We raise and donate funds, and help US taxpayers make tax-deductible donations, to support such efforts. by >DON MELVIN

February 21, 2017

The sea continued to claim the lives of migrants desperate for better lives, with 74 bodies washing ashore in Libya.

Mohammed al-Misrati, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the human remains would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in Tripoli.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies posted photographs on its Twitter account of dozens of corpses in body bags, lined up along the shore.

Migrant deaths have risen to record levels on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea. They generally attempt the crossing in flimsy inflatable craft loaded with small amounts of fuel which are intended to get them only as far as European rescue vessels stationed in international waters.

Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said more than 500 migrants were rescued at sea on Friday and Saturday. The migrants’ boats were 5-7 miles from the coast of Libya.

Gassim said the coast guard is seeing the smugglers use larger rubber boats in order to pile more migrants into the weak vessels — some taking on as many as 180 people.

“This is going to be even more disastrous to the migrants,” Gassim added.

Last year a record 181,000 migrants crossed between Libya and Italy. More than 4,500 are known to have died.

Read More

Tanzania Sea Rescue & Video – AFRAS in Action

Tanzania Sea Rescue is one of the world’s newest volunteer maritime rescue and safety organizations. Less than a year old, it has already:

  • Acquired a rescue boat and recruited over 30 volunteers
  • Had its first rescue
  • Partnered with the Red Cross on water safety programs
  • Had two training team visits, one from the UK’s RNLI and one from France’s SNSM
  • Been featured on the TV News Program “Africa Live” See video below

AFRAS is proud to be a financial supporter for Tanzania Sea Rescue.

Information on how you can make a US tax-deductible in-kind or monetary donation to Tanzania Sea Rescue via AFRAS is available here.