Marine Rescue – Raragala Island

Northern Territory Police have responded to an emergency beacon activation from a marine vessel in Raragala Island, East Arhem over the weekend.

At 9.30am on Saturday, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Canberra received an SOS beacon alert from a personal satellite device.

Attempts to return contact to the device were unanswered, however contact was able to be made with the family of the vessel’s owner by viewing registration information from the device.

Police were informed the owner of the catamaran, a 70-year-old male, along with a 69-year-old male and a 67-year-old male were on board, sailing from Darwin to Cairns. The family had last heard from the vessel on 29 April, which was not unusual given the intermittent reception along the planned route.

Members from the Northern Territory Police Search and Rescue Section (SRS) coordinated the Police response to reach the vessel, and due to the unknown nature of the emergency beacon, held concerns for the vessel’s occupants.

Around 12.30pm a local emergency rescue helicopter was dispatched by AMSA from within the Joint Rescue coordination centre in Canberra and NT police marine vessel from Galiwinku, alongside a commercial fishing vessel, were deployed to the SOS location. Weather conditions were challenging, and the area was experiencing rough seas and strong winds.

The rescue helicopter reached the SOS location at 2.45pm and made contact with the crew. The crew were discovered to be uninjured and not in distress. The vessel had previously lost its mainsail shortly after leaving Darwin with the crew deciding to continue their journey. The vessel subsequently ran out of fuel as a result of a fuel miscalculation, stranding them at Raragala Island.

Upon establishing the crew were not in distress the rescue helicopter returned to Darwin and the commercial fishing vessel was stood down.

One crew member was conveyed via the police marine vessel to Elcho Island to coordinate fuel delivery to the stranded vessel. The remaining two crew members had enough supplies and chose to remain on the vessel until fuel was delivered.

Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Karl von Minden commented, “The lack of communication with police has resulted in a substantial response to an incident that did not need it. Local police and AMSA have been forced to spend a large quantity of time responding to this incident and commercial fishing vessel operations have been heavily disrupted.

“We want to remind the boating community to be better prepared when undertaking voyages. Know your fuel consumption rate and test and familiarise yourself with satellite communications devices.

“Confirm you have all required safety equipment on board, check the weather and marine forecasts, and ensure your vessel is in good working order before going out on the water.

“To all captains we ask you make sure you know your capabilities as a skipper of the vessel. You are responsible for all the persons on the vessel.”

For further information on the marine safety requirements you can contact the Marine Safety branch on 89 247 100 or visit Boating, fishing and marine – NT.GOV.AU

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