Hangana unfolds vessel accident and rescue mission of Captain Gordon

Hangana Seafood – a subsidiary of the Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group – on Wednesday, 4 March 2020 issued a statement on the events following the tragic sinking of its fishing trawler, the MFV Resplendent, and the search and rescue mission for Carlo Gordon, the Captain of the vessel.


The management and staff of Hangana Seafood and the O&L Group are deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident and sincerely empathize with the Captain’s wife and children as well as his parents and extended family during this traumatic and difficult time.


The cause and circumstances of the sinking is currently under independent investigation by the Directorate of Maritime Affairs (DMA), which is being led by the Port Captain for Walvis Bay and the Chairperson of the Retired Fishermen’s Union. Hangana Seafood welcomes this investigation and looks forward to the publication of the DMA’s report into the incident.


In line with our commitment to the family of Captain Gordon and in honor of his loyal service for the past seventeen (17) years, Hangana Seafood will be holding a special service at its premises in Walvis Bay for family and friends of Captain Gordon at a date to be arranged.


Hangana Seafood has also given its commitment to continue assisting Captain Gordon’s wife in dealing with essential administrative issues related to his personal affairs. Representatives of the company have remained in close contact with the Chief Inspector of the police and are consulting with Home Affairs to ensure that her needs are attended to expeditiously.  


Hangana Seafood invited the Captain’s close family members to fly to the accident site in order to view the vicinity first hand from the air. On Friday, 28 February, Captain Gordon’s wife, children and housekeeper were flown to the site while a moment of silence was observed and the family members scattered flower petals over the site.


Search and rescue

Hangana Seafood’s management focused intensely on the search and rescue operations for Captain Gordon after the sinking.


In the interests of clear reporting, the company has drawn up the following timeline of events:


  • The MFV Resplendent sailed from Walvis Bay on 17February 2020 at 19:00, with 27 crew members onboard and skippered by Captain Carlo Gordon.


  • The vessel reached the fishing grounds at 07:00 on 18 February 2020 and commenced trawling.


  • At 12:30 on 18 February 2020, the Captain received reports from the crew of sudden flooding of seawater into the vessel. The Captain took emergency measures at once. All fishing was stopped.


  • At about 12:45 on 18 February 2020, Captain Carlo Gordon radioed Captain Jerome van Wyk from the MFV Fisher Bank for assistance.


  • At 13:00 on 18 February 2020, the Resplendent sent out a distress call and Captain Gordon gave instructions to the crew to take emergency measures to abandon the vessel. The crew deployed the life rafts and put on life jackets.


  • The MFV Fisher Bank was the first responder on the scene and started rescuing the crew at once. The second responder, MFV Victory from Seaworks, became involved in the rescue and lifted 17 crew members from the water. 


  • Following a head count by the captains of the rescue vessels (Captain Jerome van Wyk of the MFV Fisher Bank and Captain Hanavi of MFV Victory), a total of 26 crew members were confirmed as rescued, leaving Captain Carlo Gordon as reported missing. Both vessels started an immediate search for the Captain.


  • A number of other vessels arrived on the scene to take part in the search. They were: Victory from Seaworks; Equinos from Cadilu; Wiron V Itingwege from Pereira; Muxia from Merlus; MFV Begonia from Hangana as well as the patrol vessel Anna.


  • After the procedural 24-hour search - with no success - Hangana Seafood, however, continued to keep the MFV Begonia engaged in the search for Captain Gordon. 


  • On 19 February 2020 at 06:30, the rescued crew members arrived back at shore at Hangana jetty and, where needed, received medical attention at once.


  • Hangana Seafood continued to explore private search and rescue efforts and, to that end, made immediate contact with a leading international salvage company, Resolve Marine Group, and consulted Captain Nick Sloane.


  • Resolve is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, and has been actively involved in global salvage and wreck removal for the last 30 years. Captain Sloane is the Vice President of ISU (International Salvage Union) and led the highly publicized and largest ever wreck removal operation of the passenger liner, Costa Concordia, which sunk after striking a rock off the coast of Italy in 2012.


  • After meeting with Resolve Marine Group on 20 February 2020, it was determined that the most effective search operation would be an aerial survey, based on factors such as speed, visibility, distance covered, the depth of the sunken vessel as well as the wind and sea currents.


  • On Friday, 21 February 2020, Hangana Seafood commenced a two-day aerial search for the missing Captain over an extensive area of sea and sea-shore.  The team comprised Hangana Managing Director, Herman Theron; Tari van der Merwe of Walvis Bay Diving; Graham Riddell from Resolve Marine Group as well as two pilots. Unfortunately, the team found no trace of the Captain and no debris from the vessel.


In consultation with Walvis Bay Diving, Hangana Seafood has established that even with the use of highly sophisticated equipment, diving at these depths is at the outer limits of human capability and would be a highly dangerous undertaking. World record ultradeep mixed gas dives have been performed at a depth of 330 meters in the Red Sea in ideal conditions with no currents and with no time spent at the bottom. A search of the wreck of the Resplendent in conditions of poor visibility and with currents of measuring up to 7 knots renders the operation near impossible.


Due consideration to the feasibility of contracting a specialized vessel to perform a survey of the wreck using a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to locate Captain Gordon was given. A ROV functions as a visual aid only and does not have the capability to recover persons from the seabed. Moreover, it would have significant limitations. The vessel sank at a depth of approximately 318 metres.  The depth of the vessel and the conditions at the seabed are such that visibility will be very poor and a ROV of type needed would only be able to inspect the exterior of the wreck, once located. The expert advice received by Hangana Seafood indicates that it would be near impossible to locate a body with a ROV under these conditions.


After careful consideration and close consultation with experts to explore all possibilities, and based on the opinions of these experts, Hangana Seafood’s management and the Insurer, P&I concluded that there is no reasonable prospect of finding the missing Captain alive or recovering his body from the wreck.


In closing, Hangana Seafood can confirm that it has kept in contact with Captain Gordon’s family since the tragic events unfolded and has been updating and engaging with them on all developments and will continue to do so. These engagements include visits by the Hangana management to the Captain’s wife as well as his parents and family to provide support and commitment.  

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