HMAS Canberra finds fishermen lost at sea

HMAS Canberra and its embarked aviation assets assisted in locating the three-person crew of a skiff that had been missing for nearly three days in Micronesia last week.

CAPTION: An Australian Army ARH Tiger helicopter lands on Pikelot Island in Micronesia. The SOS message of the stricken sailors can be seen on the beach. ADF photo.

The men were found on 2 August in good condition on tiny Pikelot Island, 190km west of where they had set off in their 7-metre vessel on 30 July.

Their SOS message outlined on a beach was spotted from the air by Australian and US aircraft during the search.

The ADF had been asked for search-and-rescue support by the Rescue and Coordination Centre in Guam on the afternoon of 1 August.

HMAS Canberra is part of Task Group 635.3 conducting a Regional Presence Deployment.

Canberra was returning to Australia while the rest of the task group continued on its way to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific off Hawaii.

The ship sailed overnight to reach the search area and, in cooperation with US aircraft operating out of Guam, located the men on the island.

Aircrew from 1st Aviation Regiment in an armed reconnaissance helicopter landed on the beach, delivered food and water, confirmed the men’s identities and performed health checks.

Canberra’s Commanding Officer Captain Terry Morrison said the response by the ship’s company to the operation was outstanding.

“The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue,” Captain Morrison said.

“In particular, our embarked MRH90 helicopter from No. 808 Squadron and the four armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment were instrumental in the morning search that helped locate the men and deliver supplies and confirm their welfare.

“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world.”

The missing vessel and crew were reportedly sailing from Pulawat to Pulap atolls, a 23-nautical-mile journey, when they veered off course and ran out of fuel.

A Micronesian patrol vessel, FSS Independence, was despatched to the island to pick the men up.

Independence was built in Australia, and delivered and supported by Australia un the Pacific Patrol Boat Program.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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