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Cruise ship rescues Tongan fishing vessel

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/02/2017

The six-man crew of a 11.5m Tongan fishing boat had not had water for three days when a German cruise ship arrived to help.

The MS Albatros travelled 300km, and when it arrived about 2.30pm on Saturday, the crew of the fishing boat jumped into the water to swim to it.

They were 400km west-south-west of Tonga.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) organised the rescue after a distress signal was received about dawn.

A New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) P-3K2 Orion left Whenuapai in Auckland at first-light and located the vessel shortly after reaching the search area about 9am.

It dropped a radio, water and food.

The Albatros was diverted to help about 5am.

The crew of the fishing boat could not start their motor due to a flat battery, says senior search and rescue officer Ramon Davis.

The fishing boat had been taking on water and was unlikely to remain afloat for more than 24 hours, and the crew had a run out of drinking water.

"They had been in a truly life-threatening situation."

The Albatros is now heading to Auckland.

A day in the Bay of Islands has been lost for the cruise passengers due to diverting to the rescue.

Mr Davis says that while the fishing boat was not carrying adequate radio equipment, its EPIRB rescue beacon enabled the crew to call for help.

"We do however recommend all vessels carry at least two methods of signalling distress appropriate to their area of operation. The EPIRB alert pinpointed the vessel's location and we were able to have the RNZAF Orion fly there and discover what difficulty the crew were in.

"We would like to thank the Orion crew and all on board the Albatros for coming to the rescue of these fishermen so promptly," he said.

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