Two aircraft in search for overdue sailing ship

6 December 2007, 10:00am

A Royal New Zealand Airforce Orion and a specially outfitted Piper Chieftain search aircraft are today continuing the search for the overdue sailing ship Alvei which was scheduled to reach New Zealand on 1 December.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has declared an Alert Phase to find the Alvei, after a concerned relative of an Australian crew member contacted RCCNZ on 29 November.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, Mike Roberts, said the Orion had departed New Zealand at 7.45am (NZDT) today and would search an extended area heading towards Norfolk Island along the path the Alvei had planned to take. In the meantime, the Piper Chieftain has taken off from Norfolk Island where its crew spent the night after an extensive search yesterday. The Chieftain, which is fitted with long range fuel tanks and radar and VHF communications equipment, is heading back along the vessel’s path towards New Zealand. It is also searching an area to the west of the Alvei’s track.

The Orion is fitted with specialised communication, radar, infared and optics equipment and has the ability to remain airborne for up to 14 hours.

In the meantime, New Zealand maritime radio is continuing to broadcast two-hourly radio calls in an attempt to make contact with the Alvei. Search and rescue agencies in Australia and New Caledonia are also assisting search efforts and have alerted ships and aircraft in their regions to keep an eye out to for the ship.

The 92 foot steel-hulled sailing ship left Port Vila, Vanuatu, on 13 November with nine people on board.  The crew/passengers are believed to be aged between 27 and 66 years of age and are made up of three Americans, four Australians, one Kiwi and one Englishman.

RCCNZ immediately asked Maritime Operation Centre to broadcast radio calls within New Zealand’s search and rescue region for information once it was informed that the vessel was overdue. There has been no response from Alvei or any sightings reported.  Weather immediately to the north of New Zealand is worsening, with heavy rain and winds.

Alvei is believed to be fitted with a VHF and HF Radio as well as a distress beacon. The beacon has not been activated.  The vessel is not known to keep regular scheduled radio communications, but there is enough cause for concern to have started a search to determine her status.

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