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Search Continues for Missing Fishing Vessel in Remote Area of the Indian Ocean

Photo courtesy AMSA

Search Continues for Missing Fishing Vessel in Remote Area of the Indian Ocean

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 2895
May 18, 2023

A multinational search effort is underway in a remote section of the Indian Ocean as authorities desperately try to locate the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel that is believed to have capsized.

The vessel, which the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has identified as the Lu Peng – Yuan Yu, is reported to be carrying 39 crew members consisting of Chinese, Indonesian, and Filipino nationals.

The search area is situated in an extremely remote area of the Indian Ocean, approximately 5,000 kilometers northwest of Perth, 1,500 kilometers south of Sri Lanka, or about 600 kilometers east of Diego Garcia. Adverse weather conditions have added to the challenges faced by rescuers.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is coordinating the extensive search operation, initiated after the agency’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Canberra received a distress beacon signal on Tuesday morning, May 16, at around 5:30 a.m. (AEST). Since then, the joint efforts of multiple nations have been focused on locating the missing crew.

On the same day the distress signal was received, the bulk carrier Navios Taurus spotted an upturned hull in the search area, accompanied by scattered debris. However, no survivors were found during the initial sighting.

As the search effort entered its third day, the JRCC Australia remained cautiously optimistic about a successful outcome. However, the ongoing inclement weather in the search area and remoteness has continued to pose a significant challenge, lowering the chances of survival the more time goes on without a positive outcome.

Australia has been actively collaborating with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), and three Chinese naval ships continue to participate in the search alongside Australian vessels. To bolster the search capabilities, three aircraft have been deployed today, including an Australian Defense Force P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, a private charter aircraft from Maxem Aviation in Perth equipped with SES observers, and AMSA’s Perth-based Challenger rescue aircraft.

Seven vessels have been actively engaged in the search, including three merchant ships, one Chinese fishing vessel, and three Chinese navy ships. Additionally, a naval ship from Sri Lanka is en route to the scene, further reinforcing the international collaborative efforts.

The search area has been strategically focused on a 12,000 square kilometer region south of the location where the upturned hull was first discovered on Tuesday. The determination of this area was based on drift modeling conducted by AMSA, taking into account data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and various other sources.

Throughout the search, Australia has actively engaged with numerous countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including China, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, United States, Philippines, Indonesia, and La Reunion (France).

While weather conditions on the day of the distress call were extremely treacherous due to the passage of Cyclone Fabian, with winds reaching 120 km per hour and waves up to 7 meters, the situation has slightly improved Thursday. Early Thursday morning, weather conditions in the search area were reported as showers with low cloud cover, winds ranging from 30 to 50 km per hour, and seas of 2 to 3 meters.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has expressed deep gratitude towards these vessels and their crews for their invaluable assistance, emphasizing the vital role that commercial shipping plays in search and rescue at sea.

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