Bulk carrier ISL STAR, together with the US Coast Guard, has rescued a crew of eight Indonesian fishermen adrift for 10 days after their boat lost power in the western Pacific.
The HALLELUJAR, a 60ft Indonesian-flagged fishing vessel of wooden construction, had been adrift for 10 days when on 13 August ISL STAR, which is equipped with AMVER (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) received a message from the US Coast Guard that the crew on board was seeking immediate assistance. By the time of the rescue, the eight crew members had run out of food and fresh water.
A ninth survivor had taken the sole lifeboat aboard HALLELUJAR with the intention of seeking help. He was later picked up by a Japanese fishing vessel KENSEI MARU 3, which raised the alarm. Due to poor weather conditions, the Japanese trawler was unable to carry out a more extensive search, and found no trace of the drifting fishing boat on its radar.
The alert was routed to a Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) operating from the US naval base on Guam, which set off a full-scale search and rescue mission.
Unable to establish direct contact with the KENSEI MARU 3, the RCC had to rely on information relayed by the Japanese Coast Guard’s station in Okinawa.
Shortly after, the RCC broadcast a message to all ships in the area enlisting their support in the rescue operation. ISL STAR picked up the request and diverted from its planned course to take part in the search effort.
The following morning, the US naval base dispatched a reconnaissance plane, which started an aerial search for the drifting fishing boat. It was aided by a coast guard vessel deployed from the Micronesian island of Palau, around 500 NM due east of the Philippines.
When ISL STAR arrived at the last reported position of HALLELUJAR, there was no sign of the distressed boat or crew members in the water, so the ship’s master contacted the RCC to ask for a situation update.
After a tense wait, the search and rescue mission coordinators in Guam provided ISL STAR with a new search pattern based on latest intelligence. The hunt resumed but no sightings of the Indonesian fishermen or their boat were made.
The RCC offered fresh information at 12:00 hrs, after the HALLELUJAR was spotted from the air just 16 NM from the then current position ISL STAR.
The US Navy pilot reported that, after calls made from the vessel to his plane as he passed overhead, he could confirm that all eight crew are alive. The ISL STAR, managed by Wallem Group, immediately set a course for the stricken boat, arriving at 13:20 hrs.
By 16:00 hrs on 14 August, the rescue was complete and the Master of ISL STAR contacted coordinators at RCC Guam to confirm that all eight fishermen were safe. Physically well, the ordeal has nonetheless taken its toll on the crew. Following final instructions from RCC Guam, the bulk carrier began steaming to Palau, 160 NM away, where local authorities were on stand-by to receive and take responsibility for the rescued fishermen.
Captain A. Misra, the Master on board ISL STAR, said: “It was the first experience for my entire crew and myself to rescue life at sea, and I am indeed very proud that we were able to save lives of eight crew members of the fishing vessel.
“In situations like that, working together is important, and through the support of the US Coast Guard and Wallem team ashore, we were able to coordinate a response and successfully rescue the eight mariners. I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”