Greek-Owned Ferry Helps Rescue Six Migrants off Puerto Rico

Kydon in her Caribbean livery (Courtesy Ferries Del Caribe)

Published Sep 18, 2023 8:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Mona Island, a nature reserve located in the passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, is often sought out by human traffickers as a place to deliver U.S.-bound migrants. It's the scene of frequent rescue operations by the U.S. Coast Guard - and sometimes, good samaritan vessels join in too. That was the case on Monday, when the crew of the Greek-owned ferry Kydon responded to an emergency situation off Mona Island's Sardinera Beach.  

Much of Mona Island's shoreline is rocky and impassable, but the Playa Sardinera has a more inviting appearance. This stretch of white sand is home to a base for the Park Ranger Corps, a division of Puerto Rico's natural resources department. It's also protected by a reef paralleling the edge of the beach. 

Late Sunday night, a migrant vessel capsized near the reef line just off Playa Sardinera. Six people went into the water, and the rangers on shore heard them screaming. At about 2330 hours, the Ranger Corps contacted the U.S. Coast Guard to request assistance. The Coast Guard's San Juan base diverted the cutter USCGC Margaret Norvell and dispatched an Ocean Sentry search aircraft to look for survivors. 

In addition, Sector San Juan asked for the assistance of the car ferry Kydon, which operates a regular run from Santo Domingo and San Juan. The Kydon was passing near Mona Island and diverted to assist. 

The Ocean Sentry aircrew arrived on scene first and launched a flare to illuminate the surface. The crew spotted one person swimming towards shore, and they vectored in a rescue boat from the Kydon to retrieve the survivor. Once aboard, the individual reported that there were five more people in the water. 

The Ocean Sentry aircrew continued to search and found that the other five migrants had made it to the beach at Playa Sardinera. These survivors were assisted by the park rangers. 

Miraculously, all six of the migrants survived the capsizing without injury. The Coast Guard and the Ranger Corps are working with Customs and Border Protection to transfer all six of the migrants for processing.

“These six people are very fortunate to be alive,” said Cmdr. Gerard Wenk of Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “We cannot stress enough the dangers of a migrant voyage in the Mona Passage, especially considering the austere environment and remoteness of Mona Island in the darkness of the night.  Furthermore, migrants who are interdicted at sea will find they will be ineligible for parole and will be returned to the country from where the voyage originated.” 

Kydon is a 7,000 dwt ropax ferry built in 1990 and owned by Anek Lines of Greece. She is operated under long-term charter by Ferries Del Caribe, and she was last in the news in 2017, when she struck a dock and crumpled a stack of containers with her loading ramp in San Juan.