Chennai: Indian Coast Guard, in yet another successful search and rescue operation at sea, has rescued missing Tamil Nadu fishing boat ‘Mercedes’ in a massive search operation launched since April 24, 2021 at a distance of about 1,100 kms (590 miles) from Goa. With 11 crew, the fishing boat had sailed for deep sea fishing West of Kerala on April 06, 2021 for 30 days voyage from Thengapattanam Fishing harbour in Tamil Nadu. On April 24, 2021, the Tamil Nadu Fisheries authorities intimated regarding sighting of debris by other fishing boats operating in the area presuming ‘Mercedes’ to be sunk.
The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Center (MRCC) of Indian Coast Guard at Mumbai activated International Safety Net (ISN) to alert merchant vessels transiting near the reported position to lookout for the missing boat. Simultaneously, ICGS Samudra Prahari on deployment was diverted for search. MRCC (Mumbai) coordinated with merchant vessel Maersk Horsburgh to join the search operation along with fishing boats operating in the area. As the reported position was located in Pakistan Search and Rescue Region, MRCC Karachi was also requested for assistance as per International Marine Organisation (IMO) norms in vogue. Considering the distance from mainland, Indian Navy was requested for launch of Long-Range Maritime Patrol aircraft. It was learnt that the fishing boat was not carrying AIS or any other transponder which could have assisted in early locating of the boat by the search units.
After four days of continuous search amidst challenges of distance from mainland and weather, the missing boat was located around 370 kms (200 miles) from Lakshadweep Islands. ICG Dornier located and corroborated presence of the fishing boat on the morning of May 01, 2021. The MRCC (Mumbai) established communication with the fishing boat on satellite phone held by the boat and ascertained the crew to be safe. In the interim, an information was also received from TN fisheries authorities that the crew of IFB Mercedes had called up home through satellite phone to indicate that they are safe. ICG ship Vikram on deployment off Lakshadweep was diverted to render logistic and medical assistance to the crew. The boat was located by ICGS Vikram on April 29, 2021 around 25 NM from Suheli Par, Lakshadweep Islands. ICGS Vikram provided necessary first aid to the crew of FB Mercedes and all crew were reported to be safe. ICGS Vikram escorted the fishing boat to its base port at Thengapattanam fishing harbour. ICG Interceptor Boat C-427 was deployed on May 01, 2021 to coordinate with ICGS Vikram and facilitate smooth entry of FB Mercedes along with 11 crew members to Thengapattanam fishing harbour. The fishing boat was handed over to Assistant Director Fisheries Colachel for further disposal.
The Indian Coast Guard, as the national maritime search and rescue coordinator, has saved around 10,000 lives over 3,400 missions averaging almost one life saved per two days. Indian Coast Guard has been advocating fitment of AIS, Distress Alert Transponders and Long-Range two-way communication mechanism for enhancing safety of fishers proceeding for deep sea fishing.