Jet Boat Saves Lives in Philippine Floods
SJX's specialized jet boat - semi-flat bottomed, strong aluminum sides, able to carry loads of more than 2,200 pounds - was put into action immediately after the late September typhoon that hit the Philippines. Subsequent flooding from Typhoon Nesat displaced more than 100,000 people and left 50 dead.
SJX, based in Orofino, Idaho, had sent demonstration boats to the Philippines just months earlier to show government officials how effective the boats could be in times of emergency. These jet boats - called the Muscle Jon - can operate in water as shallow as 4 inches deep, and have a specialized bottom coating along with a tunnel system for the jet drive that allows it to work in debris-littered water.
"In flood situations, our boats have to be able to operate in the midst of an unbelievable amount of debris and also be able to withstand hits by large items," said Steve Stajkowski, owner of SJX.
The boat used in the rescue operation was sent to the flood stricken area of Bulacan province, Stajkowski said. And while the boats are rated for 2,200 pounds, they can carry up to twice that in certain conditions. The one used in the rescue operation carried up to 15 people at a time, in addition to their possessions and the boat's crew.
Use of the boat drew thanks - and an apology - from the disaster management office from the Philippine city of Olongapo. The official noted that the jet boat had been hit by the roof of a house that had been swept by raging waters.
"This incident happened when the jet boat was tasked to rescue a pregnant woman and her family with four children," the official wrote, adding that the roof began dragging the boat down the river. "Fortunately, the operator successfully maneuvered the boat away from the roof, thus transporting its passengers to safety."
Typhoons are common in the Philippines and search and rescue operations are frequent. While SJX typically makes its jet boats for the recreation market, used for fishing, hunting and river camping, it more recently has found a niche in law enforcement and government. The company sold 24 boats to the military in Ecuador to be used to catch drug traffickers that use the region's vast waterways to avoid detection. Search and rescue is now another function for these unique shallow-water type jetboats.
"In 2007, we started designing boats for the military, for harbor patrol, for search and rescue," said Stajkowski. "There are a lot of rivers around the world that have black water - water that is so filled with mud and debris that you can't see what is underneath the surface, and more so in flood-stricken areas. These types of conditions are exactly why this type of boat was designed."