MARITIME SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATION NEAR COCOS ISLANDS – UPDATE

8 May 2010

A disabled vessel carrying approximately 60 people has been located and is being towed to Cocos Islands where arrangements are being put in place for the safe disembarkation of passengers. 

The vessel was located Thursday through a search and rescue operation coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), with assistance from Defence and Border Protection Command.

Assistance was previously provided on 30 April, when a merchant ship provided fuel, food and water to the vessel. The merchant ship advised that all passengers appeared in good health and the vessel appeared seaworthy. No further requests for assistance were made by the passengers onboard the vessel.

On 5 May, Border Protection Command considered the vessel had not been sighted for some days and requested AMSA to coordinate a search and rescue operation.

The search area was approximately 33,000 square nautical miles, centred about 270km north-west of Cocos Islands. Aircraft including RAAF P3 Orions, a Border Protection Command Dash-8 and AMSA’s dedicated search and rescue Dornier aircraft were assigned to search for the vessel.

A disabled vessel was located approximately 160 nautical miles west of Cocos Islands on the evening of Thursday May 6, and four merchant vessels were diverted to the area to provide assistance to the people on board.

The group is now being taken to Cocos Islands by one of these merchant vessels. Once at Cocos Islands they will have preliminary health checks and arrangements will be made for their transfer to Christmas Island as soon as possible.

AMSA is coordinating an additional search and rescue operation to endeavour to ensure that all passengers have been accounted for.

As always, the health and well-being of the people is the Government’s primary concern.

Media Contact: Belinda Cole 0438 595 567 or Customs and Border Protection media 02 6275 6793