Papua New Guineans Rescued Drifting In Yap Waters

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

FSM Information Services Palikir, Pohnpei, FSM

December 3, 2014

On November 23, 2014, at approximately 4:00 p.m., the Yap Seagull found a small stranded boat drifting in the FSM EEZ with 2 men from Papua New Guinea (PNG), Michael Bolong, 54, and Ambros Wavut, 28, located approximately 116 nautical miles south of Kapingamarangi Island.

The Yapese fishing vessel came across the PNG castaways after the men had been adrift for months. The Yap Seagull crewmen took the two men aboard the vessel and delivered them to the nearest port, arriving in Pohnpei on Saturday, November 29, 2014, at around 2:00 p.m. The drifters were cleared by appropriate authorities and claimed that a third person who was with them did not survive the ordeal. The third person, Francis Dimansol, 48 years old, allegedly died from severe health conditions that occurred while out at sea.

It was reported that Bolong and his nephew, Wavut, departed Lihir Island bound for Tanga Island on July 15, 2014, but the small boat ran out of fuel and went adrift after encountering stormy weather. The older drifter recalls the harsh conditions they endured including exposure to the sun and surviving off of rainwater and fish.

"After weeks, a month, we were forgotten" Bolong said, based on his experience with rescue missions being cancelled following failed attempts to recover missing persons.

The boat they were found on was abandoned after they were rescued. Only their personal belongings and boat engine were brought on board. Both survivors are fine and showed no signs of serious health problems after months of drifting although they were admitted to the Pohnpei State Hospital for observation.

Under the Admiralty and Maritime law of the FSM, the master of a vessel is required to "render assistance to any person found at sea and in distress or in danger of being lost if this assistance can be rendered without endangering the vessel, crew or passengers." 19 FSMC Section 425. While it is reported that some vessels have failed to render assistance to persons that they encounter at sea who are in distress, the Yap Seagull performed admirably and rendered assistance without question.

Authorities from the FSM National Government, including the Department of Justice, Department of Health, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as Pohnpei State officials including medical personnel from the Pohnpei State Hospital, met the Yap Seagull upon its entry to Pohnpei Port and provided further assistance to the two survivors. The FSM Department of Foreign Affairs is currently in contact with the PNG government to repatriate the drifters back to PNG.

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