Coast Guard, AMVER ship team up for remote rescue

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

(HONOLULU) — Two fishermen were rescued by good Samaritans on Wednesday following a coordinated search effort in the South Pacific.

Lebeta Tiem, 27, and Erikite Teanaki, 28, were rescued by the crew of the cargo vessel Cape Odyssey at 4:14 p.m. They were to rendezvous with the motor vessel Arotobwa on Wednesday night and be transferred to Christmas Island, Republic of Kiribati. The fishermen were initially located by a Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules airplane crew during a search Tuesday.

"This case illustrates the importance of the search and rescue network in the Pacific Ocean and the skills of our personnel who developed successful search plans with very little input," said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, chief of response Coast Guard 14th District. "This is the epitome of a remote area with vast distances for response assets to cover."

The two fishermen reportedly departed Washington Island in a 14-foot aluminum boat to fish west of the island and failed to return, prompting the search. The Coast Guard received a request for assistance from the Search and Rescue Office on Tarawa on Monday. With limited information personnel in the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu developed search plans incorporating environmental data and drift modeling for multiple days at sea.

A SafetyNet broadcast was issued to alert mariners in the area to keep a sharp lookout and report any sightings. The Hercules crew was launched.

Tuesday afternoon the Hercules crew located the boat approximately 125 miles (107 nautical miles) southwest of Washington Island, Kiribati. The vessel was visually acquired and the crew were reported to be waving their arms with T-shirts in hand. The Hercules crew dropped a data marker buoy approximately 100 yards from the vessel and successfully dropped a search and rescue package containing food, water, a VHF radio, and a search and rescue transponder. With the VHF radio, despite a language barrier, the Hercules crew was able to establish communication with the fishermen and alert them a vessel was en route to their area.

The Hercules crew returned to Hawaii to refuel and change crews before departing to reacquire the vessel and vector in the crew of Cape Odyssey.

Weather on scene was reported as seas of 2 to 5 feet with 17-mph winds and good visibility. 

Arotobwa is a 143-foot vessel from the Republic of Kiribati. Cape Odyssey is a 980-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier, participating in the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System.

Born out of the 1912 RMS Titanic disaster, AMVER leverages the ability and willingness of merchant mariners aboard commercial ships to participate in search and rescue when nearby and in lieu of other vessels that may be much farther away. Today over 22,000 ships from hundreds of nations participate. The success of AMVER is directly related to the extraordinary cooperation of ships, companies, SAR authorities, communication service providers and governments in supporting this international humanitarian program to protect life and property at sea. In the vast Pacific Ocean this system is vital to saving lives.

By Professional Mariner Staff