Guam-based airlifters ‘instrumental’ in finding lost Micronesian fishermen
Stars and Stripes July 20, 2023
For the second time in three days, the U.S. Coast Guard orchestrated an effort across a vast area of the Pacific to rescue two overdue fishermen from Micronesia.
A cargo ship retrieved the two men, ages 21 and 17, on July 13 near Kukuoro Atoll, an isolated, tiny, circular string of islets 832 nautical miles southeast of Guam, according to a news release that day from the Coast Guard on Guam.
The fishermen were two days overdue when the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, the capital of Pohnpei state in the Federated States of Micronesia, contacted the Coast Guard on July 12 with a request for help finding them.
“The region's vast expanse, with its numerous islands and remote areas, poses inherent challenges and risks for mariners,” Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir wrote in the release. “Timely and effective search and rescue efforts not only save lives but also help to maintain maritime stability, reunite families, and prevent potential emergencies from escalating into larger-scale incidents.”
The Coast Guard said it immediately broadcast alerts to mariners and turned to the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System to find other vessels in the area.
The system, also called Amver, traces its roots to the RMS Titanic disaster in 1912 and played a role in 1960s- and ‘70s-era NASA spaceshots in the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs, providing NASA with a back-up plan in the event of a space flight emergency, according to the U.S. Coast Guard Amver website.
Participating ships of any nation send a sail plan to the Amver computer system prior to their departures. Vessel locations are updated every 48 hours until they reach their ports of call, according to Muir. In the event of a search-and-rescue operation, organizers can call on ships expected to be in the area.
The hunt for the two overdue fishermen involved a patrol boat from Micronesia and a diverted re-supply vessel. An HC-130 from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, arrived at the Guam station’s request on the afternoon of July 13.
The Air Force dispatched four C-17 Globemasters from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, at various times. The airlifters were “instrumental” in discovering the fishing boat 10 nautical miles southwest of Nukuoro Atoll on July 13 morning, according to the Coast Guard release.
Meanwhile, using Amver, the Coast Guard on Guam found the M/V Sea Pearl I, a 394-foot-long refrigerated cargo ship, in the area and contacted the vessel by phone.
On the afternoon of July 13, the Sea Pearl I crew notified the Coast Guard that it had taken the two fishermen aboard, according to Muir.
Their rescue came just three days after the Coast Guard, working with U.S., French and Canadian air force and naval aircraft on a training exercise in the area, located and airlifted 11 people from a 21-foot, center-console fishing boat, the Full Horizon 20, on July 10. The disabled vessel was adrift off the coast of Rota, in the Northern Mariana Islands, in eight-foot seas.