Reunited at last – Fife cadet welcomed home after being stranded at sea

David Gorniak, who's returning home after being stranded in the South China Sea for five months
David Gorniak, who's returning home after being stranded in the South China Sea for five months

An officer cadet stranded at sea for months was due to arrive home in Springfield yesterday (Thursday) for an emotional family reunion.

David Gorniak (27) was one of four Scots officer cadets left aboard the troubled container ship Hanjin Louisiana when its South Korean parent company went bust.

The ship’s crew didn’t dare dock in case assets were seized – and the cadets feared they could spend months aboard the vessel in seas known to be at risk from pirates.

At one time, they almost ran out of food and their hopes of being taken off the ship by a visiting supply vessel were dashed time and again.

But on Wednesday the families received the news that their nightmare was over.

David’s parents, Peter and Lynne, were due to meet their son at Edinburgh Airport yesterday and have a weekend of celebrations planned. And one of the first things David will do is meet his new nephew for the first time – his sister Anna’s baby Xander, born on June 23.

Bankruptcy proceedings were frozen by the Singapore authorities so the Hanjin Louisiana, which David was on, could dock.

He was one of four UK Merchant Navy trainees among an estimated 2500 Hanjin seafarers stranded some 40 miles off the coast of Singapore. At one point it was feared they could be there until December.

“It was such a huge relief when we heard that they were getting off the boat on Wednesday,” said Peter.

“We just didn’t know what was going on or how long they were going to be left stranded.

“We weren’t able to speak to him but we did receive emails sporadically that kept us in the picture.

“The four cadets are all at college together, so they stuck together and kept each other’s spirits up.

“They were off the coast of Sri Lanka when they began to run out of food.

“At one point they were down to potatoes, pasta and meat and had no fresh fruit, vegetables or eggs.

“A supply vessel eventually arrived and we were hoping it would take them off, but that didn’t happen.”

Peter said he had contacted Zodiac Marine Services to ask for a ship to be sent out to take the cadets off the Hanjin Louisiana, but didn’t receive a reply.

“No-one seemed to know what was going on,” he said.

“It was very frustrating for the cadets and for us.”

The four Scottish officer trainees, who are studying at City of Glasgow College, were on board as part of their nautical science course.

They’d been aboard the container ship for five months and had previously sailed from Mumbai to Shanghai and Qingdao before the bankruptcy interrupted its schedule in August, signalling the beginning of their ordeal.

There are an estimated 89 Hanjin ships out of its 141-vessel fleet in difficulty, and some have been seized by creditors.

The troubled shipping group has debts of more than $5bn and has struggled to raise funding to rescue $14bn (£10.5bn) worth of cargo stranded round the world following its collapse.

However, the experience hasn’t put David off returning to college this month – although he may reconsider a career at sea.

“He told us in an email that he might consider a different career path because the shipping industry is in turmoil at the moment,” said Peter.