Before more about life aboard one of the largest vessels afloat – the container ship MV Emma Maersk – I want to relate one of the odder nautical mysteries currently circulating out there, which I first heard about while aboard the Emma. It concerns the fate of the freighter Badr One which left Port Suez in early January and disappeared a few days afterward, while en route to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Friday afternoon, 1 February, I was on the bridge chatting with the Emma’s First Officer Remus Galiatatos when he asked if I’d heard about the “mystery ship”. Intrigued, I listened as Galiatatos told me of an odd note sent by a local search and rescue center about a missing ship that the ship had received. He printed off a copy of it for me to read, complete with bad English typos:
RCVD FROM SEARCH AND RESCUE CENTER
DATE 24/01/08 AT 1445 UTC
THERE IS A SHIP ID 667719000 NAMED BADR ONE
ITS NATIONALITY SERALION
CALL SIGN 9LYG25
IT IS A CARGO SHIP, PSN NEARLY NORTH EAST BRANES
ON BOARD 14 PERSONS,
THERE IS NO CONTACT, NO INFMS. ABT. SHIP
ETS 09/01/08 FM SUES
ALL SHIPS IN MENTIONED AREA PSE CONTACT SUK ON CH 605, CH1221 HF
AND ON CH16 VHF IN CASE OF GETTING ANY INFORMATIONS
According to the note, the Emma Maersk was about to transit past the last known position of the Badr One in a few hours’ time, Branes, a coastal port in Egypt also known as Berenice. If there were fourteen mariners aboard a missing vessel in the vicinity, you would expect a certain amount of radio chatter going on about the incident. Yet things were oddly quiet.
What was confusing to Galiatatos was that he could find no record of the ship’s existence in any of the various official shipping binders in the wheelhouse. We pulled out the lists of call signs, IMO (International Maritime Organization) identification numbers and vessel names, checking for anything similar in name from Sierra Leone, but Badr One was not listed in any of them. As well, there was no confirmation as to who had sent the notice. The First Officer thought it might have been sent from El Quseir, Egypt, but he couldn’t be certain.
We sailed past Berenice and towards our anchorage at Port Suez without any further information about the Badr One and its fate. Some of the crew wondered if it might be a ghost ship – a vessel renamed and involved with suspicious activities, or one that the owner might be hoping would “disappear” for insurance purposes. Others thought the message was a fake, intended to make it seem there was an emergency when there was none. But no one could say for sure and there was no more news about the freighter and her crew.
But a couple of recent items posted on Egyptian and Sudanese sites say the Badr One may have been found. “May have been found” is the key phrase here, for there is no actual confirmation that the vessel and its crew are safe.
Pirated? Possibly, and maybe the owners paid the ransom or are doing so as you read this. They are insinuating as much, though Egyptian authorities deny piracy occurs in this part of the Red Sea. So, perhaps there was something else going on with a vessel reportedly carrying cement, plastic and steel pipes. Regardless, a ship with 14 crew went missing in one of the world’s busiest waterways and no one seemed to care too much.