The P&O Cruises Australia ship Pacific Explorer responded to a distress call and rescued a stranded mariner on Friday, October 6, 2023, south of Vanuatu.

The successful rescue of the young man hoping to break a world record happened in the early morning, and the cruise ship has resumed its current sailing with no impact on the itinerary schedule.

The 77,441-gross-ton, Sun-class Pacific Explorer was contacted by the New Caledonia Marine Rescue Coordination Centre and requested to render aid to a mariner in distress on Friday, October 6, 2023. The ship diverted course and rendezvoused with Tom Robinson’s overturned boat, taking the 24-year-old man onboard.

Robinson was attempting to become the youngest person to row across the Pacific Ocean, a journey he began in Peru more than a year ago.

The last leg of the journey was to be from Vanuatu to Australia, but a rough wave flipped damaged and flipped Robinson’s boat approximately 185 kilometers (115 miles) south of Vanuatu. He activated his emergency beacon at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Pacific Explorer was able to reach Robinson at roughly 7 a.m. Friday morning after French naval aircraft pinpointed his location and conveyed the information to the ship.

Robinson was brought aboard safely, dehydrated and sunburned but otherwise healthy and uninjured. He was given medical treatment, new clothing, and a good meal.

“I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all the crew on P&O Pacific Explorer whose seamanship and professionalism ensured a safe rescue,” Robinson said in a statement to local media. “Once aboard I was treated with the utmost courtesy and kindness by the medical staff.”

P&O Cruises Australia confirmed the incident via a statement as well.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our crew, led by Captain Alan Nixon, for their efforts to once again rescue a fellow mariner in distress, as well as our guests onboard for their understanding,” the statement read.

Tom Robinson

The ship had diverted approximately 200 km (124 miles) to reach Robinson. Pacific Explorer was in the midst of a 9-night Pacific Island Hopper sailing, roundtrip from Auckland, New Zealand. The ship had departed Auckland on Saturday, September 30, and had already called on both Noumea and Lifou, New Caledonia as well as Vila, Vanuatu before the rescue.

The ship’s last port of call is to Mystery Island on Friday, before returning to Auckland on Monday, October 9.

Pacific Explorer can host 1,998 passengers for each sailing, with just over 900 international crew members on board as well. The ship is currently homeported from Auckland for a variety of New Zealand and South Pacific sailings, before it repositions to Melbourne, Australia in early December for Australia and Tasmania cruises.

P&O Cruises Australia is one of several cruise lines owned by Carnival Corporation & plc.

This is the second rescue operation Pacific Explorer has been involved with in just two weeks. On Sunday, September 24, the ship assisted a yacht in distress in poor weather.

The cruise ship was able to rescue one individual from the yacht and remained nearby to monitor the unstable craft when further rescue attempts were not possible.

Pacific Explorer Cruise Rescue (Photo Credit: Ali Gilchrist)

Unfortunately, a third individual did not survive the incident and was already deceased when the cruise ship arrived. Details of the death have not been released in order to safeguard the privacy of family members.

All vessels are obligated to render assistance to others at sea, and cruise ships regularly respond to distress calls from capsized or damaged boats, or smaller craft that may be used by refugees.

Such rescues may come about when a craft is disabled and cannot make headway on its own, or if rough weather has incapacitated a small boat, yacht, trawler, or other vessel.

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