Foreign Fishing Vessel Runs Aground On Fiji Reef

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Nine men rescued, navy authorities investigating incident

By Ana Madigibuli

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 4, 2013) Ð Nine foreign fishermen who were on board a fishing vessel that ran aground on Fiji's Beqa reef are thankful to a local helicopter company for rescuing them yesterday.

The Ming Jyh Fwu #16 vessel, believed to be a fishing boat, was carrying a Taiwanese national, a Chinese and seven Indonesian nationals when it struck Beqa reef.

Helipro manager Graeme Hedge said the helipro team received a call from the naval base regarding the incident, and was tasked to carry out the rescue operation.

Mr. Hedge said his team was advised that the vessel ran aground after an encounter with strong wind and rain on Tuesday night.

"When we got there, the nine fishermen were on board the fishing vessel and no one was injured," he said.

"The vessel was stuck on the reef and we had to tell the men to get on a life raft and directed them to move the raft towards the reef."

Mr. Hedge said they managed to get the divers and the fishermen on the reef so it would be easy for them to hover above and pull the fishermen on board the helicopter.

"It was easy to get them on the reef because it was low tide and from there, we quickly pulled the first five men out and into the helicopter.

"When we managed to get the first five on the helicopter, we quickly went straight to our base and dropped them off at the hangar.

"We were given direct orders by the Customs team to keep the fishermen at the base with our crew and we flew back out to get the last four with the other navy diver who was with them on the reef."

Navy Acting Commander Humphrey Tawake said they were conducting an investigation.

He said the naval base could not give any information on the cause of the incident and when the vessel ran aground.

"We had to make sure the nine men were brought safely back to shore without any harm and the navy divers were being assisted by the Helipro team," he said.

Fisheries Department director Suresh Chand said the fishing vessel was among many other vessels that normally stopped over in Fiji to replenish on supplies and food rations.

He said the vessel was not allowed to fish in Fiji waters but only on high seas.

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