Accordingly, on Wednesday July 29, the Coast Guard raised the alert level to Condition Zulu expecting winds greater than 39 mph from the passing storm.
The alert highlighted that ports would remain closed while cargo operations were suspended including bunkering and lightering.
The Island Express, a Cyprus flagged 412-foot ro-ro cargo ship, with a crew of 18 departed the port of San Juan to avoid the storm, but shortly after the vessel left the port, the Coast Guard reports that it received a mayday VHF radio transmission on Channel 16 from the captain of the Island Express. They reported that there was a possible broken pipe in the engine room and that the bilges were approximately 75 percent full of water.
In light of the incident, USCG air and surface rescue crews at Sector San Juan responded to assist the vessel in distress. This included two 33-foot small boats and a 45-foot Response Boat Medium from Station San Juan that got underway and arrived on scene with the Island Express. A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter also arrived on the scene, and the aircrew was able to maintain communications with the Coast Guard boat crews as they escorted the cargo ship in eight to 10-foot seas.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Lance Wiser, Station San Juan officer in charge commented that
Despite the impending tropical storm and all Station San Juan small boats securely out of the water for an incoming storm, our boat crews responded immediately to launch two 33-foot small boats from their trailers and the 45-foot Response Boat Medium utilizing the mobile boat hoist.
In the meantime, the Sector San Juan Prevention personnel coordinated with the San Juan Bay Pilots and two Puerto Rico towing tugboats that rendezvoused with the Island Express at the entrance of San Juan Harbor.
Then, the tugboats escorted the vessel to Pier 15, where the ship safely moored and the crew was able to finalize dewatering of the bilge spaces.
The USCG informed that the vessel remains safely moored in the harbor, waiting the storm to clear to determine the condition of port facilities and navigable waterways.