Coast Guard conducts international rescue of three Chuukese fishermen

Coast Guard Cutter Kiska file photo

Coast Guard Cutter Kiska file photo

HONOLULU — Three Chuukese fishermen from the Federated States of Micronesia are home safe Tuesday after missing at sea for a week in the Pacific.

Following an extensive multi-national search coordinated by the Coast Guard Sector Guam Command Center, the three fishermen were ultimately located 85 nautical miles (nearly 100 statute miles) off Chuuk by a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon airplane crew. The Poseidon crew provided supplies and relayed their position to the Federated States of Micronesia Police patrol boat FSS Palikir crew who recovered the fisherman two and a half hours later.

The fishermen reportedly left Fefan Island Feb. 13, at 9 a.m. in their 19-foot skiff with the intention to fish outside of Chuuk Lagoon and return the same day. When they did not return, relatives of the missing men searched, with no success. The search and rescue liaison for Chuuk officially requested U.S. Coast Guard assistance by contacting Sector Command Center Guam watchstanders on Feb. 15, approximately two days after the three men went missing in the Pacific Ocean.

The skiff was described as 19-feet, white and grey with a single outboard. The edges and part of the transom were orange, having previously been painted as part of the Coast Guard 14th District’s ongoing Orange Boat Initiative to make skiffs of this type more visible. OBI was launched in 2015 after a successful search and rescue case resulting in the location of an adrift 15-year-old man due to the contrasting orange interior of his vessel to the dark blue sea.

The three fishermen reportedly left port with 20 gallons of fuel in canisters, one gallon of fresh water, one day’s worth of food and possibly a flashlight.

Sector Command Center Guam personnel issued a SafetyNet message, launched assets and pulled an Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System surface picture, which indicates the relative position of all AMVER-participating ships around a specific geographic point.

“AMVER is a worldwide voluntary reporting system sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a computer-based global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea,” said Chief Petty Officer Sean Soule, command duty officer, Sector Command Center Guam. “This case is an excellent demonstration of the importance of our relationship with DOD and the maritime community who come together to leverage assets across a huge area of responsibility and bring people home to their loved ones.”

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, local Guam time, the Poseidon crew located the three persons waving down the aircraft from their boat south of Chuuk Lagoon. The Poseidon crew dropped a search and rescue kit consisting of water, food rations, a VHF handheld radio and a life raft. The aircraft remained on scene until the FSS Palikir crew arrived to take the fishermen aboard and put their skiff in tow.

The fishermen were reportedly in good health with no medical concerns. They reported to responders they had experienced engine issues while fishing and began to drift preventing their return home on schedule.

Involved in the search were:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kiska (WPB 1336), homeported in Guam
  • An HC-130 Hercules fixed-wing airplane from Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu
  • Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance airplane crew from Kadena Air Base, Japan
  • Police surface assets from the Federated States of Micronesia
  • Motor Vessel Frontier Ace
  • Motor Vessel Dyna Voyager
  • Motor Vessel Maran Gas Agamemnon
  • Motor Vessel Unta
  • Motor Vessel Corona Ace
  • Motor Vessel Corona Splendor
  • Motor Vessel Grand Quest
  • Motor Vessel Shoyoh
  • Motor Vessel Seoul Express

The Coast Guard recommends to always leave a float plan with friends or family detailing a course, itinerary and gear. It is also recommended mariners take adequate life-saving gear for all those aboard the vessel, provisions and any medications needed. Multiple forms of communication and personal locator beacons can also alert responders to distress situations and significantly reduce search time.

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