Heroes At Sea!

Captain Tawake, 36, a pioneering sailor of the Uto ni Yalo’s maiden voyage in 2009, has been based in Majuro, Marshall Islands, for five years.
20 Oct 2022 16:25
Heroes At Sea!
Mum Terokoiti Buurutiri, with baby Ignatiis onboard the kwai. Photo: Steven Tawake. Top Inset: Captain Steven Tawake with baby Ignatius.

The steady and swift action by Captain Steven Tawake along with his crew members on board the vessel ‘Kwai‘ led to the safe delivery of a baby boy at sea on Monday morning.

This was no ordinary delivery where the expectant mother had the comfort of a hospital room and bed to deliver her bundle of joy.

Thanks to the skipper and his  crew this delivery was carried out safely on a cargo ship in the open rough seas, some 60 to 70 miles outside off Christmas Island.


The ship was enroute to Christmas Island from Washington Island near Kiribati, where the voyage took almost two days.

Captain Tawake, 36, a pioneering sailor of the Uto ni Yalo’s maiden voyage in 2009, has been based in Majuro, Marshall Islands, for five years.

He has captained the government- owned vessel ‘Kwai’ for two years.

For the Kaba, Bau, Tailevu native, the experience on Monday morning was one he will never forget.


What transpired?

Mr Tawake and his crew members had just returned from Hawaii and were tasked to drop supplies and food in Washington and Fanning Island before returning to Christmas Island.

Terokoiti Buurutiri, who was seven months pregnant, had boarded the vessel with her husband Bruce from Washington Island as part of a medical referral to be transferred to Christmas Island on Sunday, October 16.

“On this trip, I had to transport three hospital transferals who needed to be taken to Christmas Island because of their health conditions. Two women were pregnant, and a man suffering from gastritis,” Mr Tawake said.


“We left Washington Island around 4pm on Sunday afternoon bound for Fanning Island then to Christmas Island. We were bound to reach Christmas Island on Tuesday morning.”

On Monday, at around 7am, a crew member alerted the captain that Ms Buurutiri was experiencing pregnancy pain.

“My mind rushed knowing that we were 70 miles to the main island; only an old nurse from the village was onboard,” he said.

“They had not prepared any stuff yet for the baby and we had to make do with what we had on the ship. Luckily, we had a community nurse that was with us onboard.

“I had to be firm because they were my passengers and their health and well-being was in my hands. I held the mothers hand and told her that she would be fine.”

Captain Steven Tawake (middle), delivering some essentials to the baby’s father, Bruce, and a relative.

Captain Steven Tawake (middle), delivering some essentials to the baby’s father, Bruce, and a relative.

The Captain had to ask his crew to prepare towels and beddings to welcome the newborn.

“I asked the crew to boil hot water, hit up the scissors with hot water, prepare new towels and blankets, gloves, stitch supplies, alcohol and so forth,” he said.

“I knew being shy in carrying out the task was not an option. I prayed to God to ensure a safe delivery.”

The delivery was so quick that in less than 20 minutes, the woman safely delivered a baby boy.


“On Monday around 8am, a healthy baby boy was delivered: the mum was fine, not much pain even when the ship was breaking through large waves and rough seas at the time.”

The vessel arrived at Christmas Island on Tuesday at 2am.

He said while he had received minimal training on delivering babies on board, he was adamant in ensuring the mother and her baby were safe and well looked after.

“I had 11 crew members on the ship with me. It was the first time for me to experience this and thank God we pulled through.”


Parents of the baby grateful

Mother, Ms Buurutiri and father Bruce said they were grateful to the helping hands of the ship crew, led by Mr Tawake, who safely delivered their baby boy.

The couple, who are non-English speakers, had also requested Mr Tawake to name the baby as a token of their appreciation of the work they had carried out at sea.

Mr Tawake said he was grateful to have given a name for the baby.


“I had asked a Catholic priest who was onboard if there was a saint celebration on Monday. He told me it was the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a Bishop and martyr,” he said.

“I was blessed and happy to name him Ignatius in Fijian Iginasio, which is basically my grandad’s name as well. Now, I have family ties with this young family.

“We had a small kava ceremony of vakatoka yaca and I told them of the significance of the name and the reason I chose it.”

Baby Ignatius and his mother are recovering at the Christmas Island Health facility.



  • In high seas, crew members and their ship master must be familiarised with their duties to ensure that people onboard the vessel understand their responsibilities, which includes first aid, where crew members are aware of important safety procedures that must be carried out on ships while working or during an emergency situations.
  • It is the duty of the master of the ship to ensure that each new crew member is given proper familiarisation training to ensure personal safety and well-being of the ship. Usually, the master would designate a qualified person in charge of training the new crew members of the ship.


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