Tongan fishing vessel rescued and under tow
Rescuers have successfully reached a fishing vessel in trouble off the coast of Tonga and are now towing it back to port. All four rescued crew are safe and well.
Rescuers on board another Tongan fishing boat reached the broken down vessel, located approximately 38 nautical miles (70km) North West of Vava’u, Tonga, about 2.30am today. Attempts to get the stranded vessel’s engine going by transferring a new battery were unsuccessful. She will now be towed back to Vava’u, and is expected to arrive around 3pm today.
Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has been co-ordinating the rescue of the four Tongan men, who are aged 38, 30, 20 and 20 years, and are well equipped with food, water and lifejackets. RCCNZ is also in regular radio contact with the rescuing vessel.
A Royal New Zealand Airforce Orion sent from Whenuapai airbase first located the men around midnight on Wednesday, after they set off an emergency locator beacon earlier in the evening, which was detected by satellites monitored by RCCNZ.
Rescue efforts were greatly speeded up because the men were carrying a 406 Megahertz emergency beacon, which are able to be detected much more quickly by satellite than the older style 121Mhz beacons, which are gradually being phased out.
Because 406 beacons are also registered to an owner, this provides rescuers with access to valuable information about a vessel and its equipment and crew, which greatly assisted in the coordination of the search.
Tongan authorities also provided excellent assistance in the rescue of the four men.