U.S. Navy Locates Fishermen in Long-Distance SAR Effort

P-8A Poseidon (U.S. Navy file image)

Published Feb 21, 2018 4:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

On February 20, a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft located and saved a group of fishermen who went missing last week in the South Pacific. 

Three fishermen from Fefan Island - one of several islets within Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia - left their home port in a skiff on February 13. They planned on a one-day fishing trip in nearby waters, but they did not return, and a local effort to find them was unsuccessful. The Chuuk search and rescue liaison reached out to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam to request assistance on February 15. 

In response, the Coast Guard dispatched the Guam-based cutter Kiska and an HC-130 long-range search aircraft based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. It also activated an AMVER request for merchant vessel search assistance, and received help from nine ships - the Frontier Ace, Dyna Voyager, Maran Gas Agamemnon, Unta, Corona Ace, Corona Splendor, Grand Quest, Shoyoh and Seoul Express. This effort did not yield immediate results, and after several days, the Coast Guard requested assistance from the U.S. Navy. 

In response, the Navy's Japan-based Patrol Squadron Eight launched a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft to search the waters near Chuuk Lagoon, and its crew found the missing skiff within three hours. The survivors were adrift about 85 nm to the south of the lagoon, and the Micronesian patrol vessel FSS Palikir transited to the scene and rescued the fishermen.  

The survivors were reportedly in good health with no medical concerns. They told responders they had experienced engine issues while fishing and began to drift, preventing their return to shore. 

Micronesia has a special relationship with the American government that permits it to request assistance under certain circumstances. The Federated States of Micronesia was once part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a outlying territory of the United States that was dissolved in 1986. Micronesia retains a "Compact of Free Association" with the U.S., which gives it access to American emergency services, military protection and certain government administration functions.