AMVER ships aid South Pacific rescue

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(HONOLULU) — Coast Guard and AMVER crews rescued three boaters in the waters between Chuuk and Puluwat Atoll, Federated States of Micronesia, on Wednesday. An HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu located three additional boater missing near Tarawa and are coordinating their rescue by a commercial vessel, and the same Hercules crew has been diverted to search for an additional vessel also with three boaters overdue near Tarawa.

In the first case, three boaters, several days overdue on a voyage from Chuuk to Puluwat Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia, are safe in Puluwat Atoll following a joint international search. The missing men were on a 19-foot skiff and located by the motor vessel Shoryu. All three men were brought aboard Shoryu and are reportedly to be in good condition. The skiff was placed in a side tow and Shoryu took the three men to Puluwat. A family member reported the men overdue Monday, prompting a search by the Coast Guard. Watch standers at Coast Guard Sector Guam issued an urgent marine information broadcast alerting mariners in the region to the situation. The watch standers coordinated search efforts of two Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System ships, Soma Maru and Shoryu, and provided search patterns for each vessel. 

In the second case near Tarawa, a Hercules aircraft crew located three boaters, missing for eight days, just before noon Wednesday. The air crew dropped supplies from the plane to the boaters and the Coast Guard is working to identify a vessel in the area to relocate and rescue them. Watch standers at the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center in Honolulu were notified Monday by search coordinators with the Rescue Coordination Center Nadi, Fiji, of an overdue 17-foot white and yellow skiff. The vessel reportedly had a 40-hp engine with 18 to 20 gallons of fuel on board and some fresh water. The skiff was reportedly last seen the morning of March 22 departing Teaoraereke Village, Tarawa, en route to a fishing area 10 miles to the south. A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion airplane crew completed a search Saturday with no sightings. The Coast Guard provided the Hercules air crew Tuesday. Due to the distance the crew covered to get to the search area, roughly 2,400 miles (the distance from Los Angeles to New York City), they were able to search for one hour on scene before needing to land for crew rest and to refuel. Their search resumed Wednesday at first light.

In the third case, Coast Guard watch standers in Honolulu are coordinating with search-and-rescue controllers at RCC Fiji to search for an overdue 18-foot skiff with three boaters aboard that reportedly left Tarawa en route to Maiana on a fishing trip. The Coast Guard C-130 aircraft that searched on the second case has been diverted to begin searching the area. The missing 19-foot skiff is three days overdue.

"We sincerely appreciate the support and coordination of all our search-and-rescue partners. Due to the size and scope of the Pacific we depend on them to help us respond in a timely manner in remote locations," said Petty Officer 1st Class Dustin Welch, a search-and-rescue controller at Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu. "We also recommend to all boaters to be prepared for unforeseen interruptions in their voyages by being prepared with extra supplies and communications devices."

Mariners are reminded a properly registered electronic position indicating radio beacon can make a dramatic difference not only in being located, but in the amount of time spent at sea. EPIRBs use satellites, not line-of-sight like VHF radios or cellular towers, increasing their range and reliability. They're highly accurate and once activated provide rescuers with excellent location information for anyone in distress, significantly reducing on scene search time.

AMVER, sponsored by the Coast Guard, is a computer-based voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search-and-rescue authorities. With AMVER, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of distress and divert the best-suited ship or ships to respond.

By Professional Mariner Staff