HMAS Newcastle in search for missing fishermen in the Indian Ocean

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), LSEW Melissa Girling (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06), Search and Rescue (SAR)

HMAS Newcastle's boarding team inspecting the damage onboard the Chung Ying. (photo: LSEW Melissa Girling)
HMAS Newcastle's boarding team inspecting the damage onboard the Chung Ying.

HMAS Newcastle has combined with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) warship Mianyang to search for survivors of a damaged fishing trawler in Middle Eastern waters.

Newcastle and Mianyang worked together to conduct a search and rescue operation in the Indian Ocean, 350 nautical miles north of Seychelles.

The ships' crews conducted an extensive search for survivors of a Taiwanese fishing vessel found badly damaged by fire on 28 June 2013.

Fourteen survivors (1 Taiwanese and 13 Filipino) who abandoned the sinking vessel were recovered from a life raft by another Taiwanese fishing vessel.

Commanding Officer HMAS Newcastle, Commander Paul O’Grady said Mianyang and Newcastle worked well together in an effective search.

“The cooperation between the RAN and PLA-N was excellent and demonstrates the commitment that all mariners share to the principal of safety of life at sea,” Commander O’Grady said.

Both Newcastle and Mianyang used their helicopters to widen the search area.

“HMAS Newcastle’s Seahawk helicopter located the burnt fishing vessel and a boarding party subsequently boarded the vessel to search for survivors but none were found,” Commander O’Grady said.

The PLA-N warship, Mianyang located a second life raft with no survivors onboard later in the day.

HMAS Newcastle completed a thorough search of the area from first light until dusk, including four helicopter sorties before leaving the area.

Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Ash Power said Newcastle’s efforts showed how Navy personnel were playing an active role in keeping people safe in Middle Eastern waters as part of Operation SLIPPER.

“HMAS Newcastle is deployed in the Middle East as Australia’s contribution to the international campaign against terrorism, counter smuggling and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden and enhancing regional maritime security and engagement,” Lieutenant General Power said.

“This search and rescue mission shows how our presence in the area can help save lives at sea by assisting mariners in trouble as a result of things beyond their control.

Newcastle’s efforts here with the skilled personnel onboard Mianyang shows the shared bonds and the spirit of cooperation between navies in the pursuit of assisting mariners in peril on the high seas.”

HMAS Newcastle commenced Operation SLIPPER on 28 May 2013 after taking over from HMAS Toowoomba. She will hand over to sister ship HMAS Melbourne in mid-October 2013.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20130556.