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MSC Boxship Rescues 17-Year-Old Paddleboarder off Portugal

MSC Reef rescue
Courtesy Portuguese Air Force

Published Apr 18, 2023 5:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a miraculous rescue on Sunday, the crew of a container ship saved a young paddleboarder who had been blown far out to sea off the coast of Portugal. 

17-year-old Erica Vicente, a Portuguese national from Setubal, was practicing with a standup paddleboard just off a beach in Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal on Saturday night when she got into trouble. At about 2000 hours, strong winds pulled her away from the beach, and she could not paddle back. She disappeared overnight, and Portuguese and Spanish authorities launched a search effort. Two Portuguese SAR aircraft were dispatched to look for Vicente overnight, and the authorities broadcast a notice to mariners to advise them to remain vigilant for a drifting survivor.

At 1730 hours on Sunday, the boxship MSC Reef was awaiting its turn to enter the port of Tangier, Morocco when the crew spotted Vicente in the water. She had been at sea on a paddleboard for 20 hours, and she was suffering from hypothermia and a severe sunburn, but she was alive - having drifted 25 nm out to sea. 

"The young woman had severe hypothermia and the support of the Portuguese Air Force was requested so she could be transported her to Faro airport," the Portuguese National Maritime Authority said in a statement. 

A rescue helicopter met up with MSC Reef and lowered a litter to hoist Vicente off the ship. By the time she reached a hospital, she had already recovered from hypothermia.