Phoenix Reisen’s Albatros came to the rescue of six Tongan fishermen on Saturday (4th February) after their fishing boat, Losemani Fo’ou started taking on water in southern Tongan waters.
Albatros was bound for Auckland when they diverted 300km to help in the rescue of the distressed crew from the Losemani Fo’ou. The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ) contacted Albatross in order to help with the rescue after an emergency rescue beacon had been activated by the fishermen, 400 kilometres west south west of Tonga.
RCCNZ also requested an Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion to fly from Whenuapai to the exact position that was indicated from the rescue beacon.
The Airforce crew dropped emergency equipment and a radio to the boat crew, who were then able to communicate that they could not start their motor due to a flat battery, said Senior Search and Rescue Officer Ramon Davis.
Albatros finally reached the scene at around 2.30pm where the six fishemeran then jumped into the sea to swim to the ship. It was anticipated that with the amount of water their fishing boat had taken on, it was likely it would survive less than 24 hours. Another worrying problem was the fishing boat had run out of drinking water as well.
Ramon Davis, Senior Search and Rescue Officer, said that the situation the fishermen were encountering was one of “a truly life-threatening situation.”
Crew from Albatros helped the fishermen on board and with the ship now heading to Auckland, the fishermen will stay on board until they reach the New Zealand city on Monday.
With the rescue operation, the cruise ship passengers have lost a day of their cruise, however the fact that the fishermen are safe is the priority.
Ramon Davis confirmed that the fishing boat had not been carrying ‘adequte radio equipment, and that i was only the Rescue Beacon that helped raise help for the fishermen. Mr Davies warned about the dangers of small vessels not carrying the suitable radio equipment, he said:
“We do however recommend all vessels carry at least two methods of signaling distress appropriate to their area of operation. The EPIRB alert pinpointed the vessel’s location and we were able to have the RNZAF Orion fly there and discover what difficulty the crew were in. ”
In addition, Mr Davies thanked all those involved in the rescue of the fishermen.
“We would like to thank the Orion crew and all onboard the Albatros for coming to the rescue of these fishermen so promptly.”
The six crewmen have been given medicals by Albatros’s doctor and they are well after their ordeal. Their identities have not been released apart from getting in touch with their family members but it is believed they are Tongans.
The names of the fishing boat and its crew are not known at this stage, but it is understood that they are Tongans.
They will be disembarked when the ship arrives in Auckland on Monday.
Quotes: Matanga Tonga Online
Image: Phoenix Reisen