TEL AVIV (Apr. 20)
A Syrian merchant vessel in danger of sinking was towed last week to Haifa port for repairs by Israeli navy missile boats, which sped to its aid in response to distress signals.
Israeli longshoremen worked shoulder to shoulder with Syrian seamen transferring cargo to barges in order to lighten the motorship Kayess and return it to an even keel.
Navy and port authorities said they had no problems dealing with the Syrian-flag ship and its crew, although Israel and Syria are technically in a state of war.
“Maritime tradition says you don’t worry about the nationality of a vessel and mariners when you receive a distress signal. You just rush to aid the stricken vessel,” a port spokesman said.
The Kayess had sailed from Alexandria, Egypt, bound for Beirut, Lebanon, with a mixed cargo of vegetables, sugar and cement.
It sent out an SOS about 35 miles northwest of Haifa on the night of April 16, after a leak flooded its engine room and threatened to capsize the vessel.
The signal was picked up by the Haifa Marine Communications Center, which relayed it to the Israeli navy. Within minutes, missile boats were speeding to the rescue.
They towed the badly listing Kayess to Haifa, where harbor tugs took over and eased it into shallow water. There the task began of pumping the ship dry and returning it to an even keel.
Crew members reportedly said the ship was overloaded and leaking when it left Alexandria.
Its master, Capt. Abdul Kadr Mansur, told reporters that this was the second time in a year that he was rescued at sea by the Israeli navy under similar circumstances.