Express News Service
NEW DELHI: In a positive development on Wednesday, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) located the fishing boat ‘Mercedes’ which went missing in the high sea and was presumed sunk. A search and rescue operation was launched on April 24.
The ICG in its official statement said, “The fishing boat had sailed for deep-sea fishing on 06 Apr 21 with 11 crew onboard West of Kerala for 30 days voyage from Thengapattnam Fishing harbour in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu Fisheries authorities on 24 Apr 21 intimated regarding the sighting of debris by other fishing boats operating in the area presuming the fishing boat Mercedes to be sunk.”
The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) of the Indian Coast Guard in Mumbai activated the International Safety Net to alert merchant vessels transiting near the reported positions to look out for the missing boat. Simultaneously, ICGS Samudra Prahari on concurrent deployment was diverted for search at a distance of about 1,100 km from Goa. MRCC (Mumbai) coordinated with the merchant vessel ‘Maersk Horsburgh’ to join the search operation along with fishing boats operating in the area.
MRCC is a nodal office for coordinating maritime search and rescue. Under a Standard Operating Procedure, as the reported position was located in Pakistan Search and Rescue Region, MRCC Karachi was also requested for assistance as per IMO norms in vogue.
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Considering the distance from the mainland, the Indian Navy was requested for the launch of the Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft. After four days of continuous search amidst challenges of distance from the mainland and weather, the missing boat was located around 370 km off the Lakshadweep Islands.
“ICG Dornier located and corroborated the presence of the fishing boat today morning. MRCC (Mumbai) established communication with the fishing boat on satellite phone held by the boat and ascertained the crew to be safe.” Said the Coast Guard.
Meanwhile, information was received from TN fisheries authorities that the crew of the boat had called up home through satellite phone to indicate that they are safe.
ICG informed, “ICG ship on deployment off Lakshadweep was diverted to render logistic and medical assistance to the crew. The fishing boat is returning to its base port under the escort of ICG ship and would reach around 03 May 21.”
It was learnt that the fishing boat was not carrying AIS or any other transponder which could have assisted in the early locating of the boat by the search units. ICG has been advocating the fitment of AIS, Distress Alert Transponders, and Long Range two-way Communication mechanism for enhancing the safety of fishers proceeding for deep-sea fishing.
Raised in 1977, the Indian Coast Guard is the National Maritime Search and Rescue Coordinator and has saved around 10,000 lives in over 3,400 missions since then averaging almost one life saved in two days.