MARITIME NZ was recently involved in a search and rescue effort to locate two fishermen from Tuvalu who went missing at sea earlier this month.

Maritime NZ’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) was one of several agencies from across the Pacific that played a role in bringing the two fishermen home safely.

The men were aboard a 5.8-metre aluminium vessel that went missing on 1 July.

Maritime NZ and other agencies covered an especially large search area because the men had not taken emergency location equipment out with them.

After three days adrift, and multiple searchers working from the sea and air, the MV Nivaga III, a local vessel, found the pair at 2100 on Tuesday 4 July.

Justin Allan, general manager RCCNZ and Safety Systems at Maritime NZ, said the rescue wasn’t just about finding a needle in a haystack – the co-ordinating agencies had to find the haystack first.

“The identified search area was approximately 5500 nautical miles,” he said.

Maritime NZ said the successful rescue was based on regional co-operation between the Fijian Rescue Coordination Centre, Tuvalu search and rescue coordinators and response assets, and RCCNZ.

The New Zealand Defence Force also sent its new P8A to assist with the search.

“The vessel was eventually found right in the middle of the search area, which highlighted the planning and coordination capability of the Fijian MRCC,” Mr Allan said.

RCCNZ also acknowledged the support of the NZDF who carried out the first operational deployment of the P8A Poseidon in support of the search.

“It is reassuring knowing NZDF has an asset like the P8A that we can quickly call upon to assist with searches such as this,” Mr Allan said.

Maritime NZ noted RCCNZ has been undertaking work to support the development of their Fijian counterparts’ search and rescue capability.

This involved a two-week training course, with a focus on coordination search efforts, assessing search areas and tasking assets such as vessels of opportunity and aircraft.