HMAS Canberra and its embarked aviation assets assisted in locating the three-person crew of a skiff that had been missing for nearly three days in the western Pacific island nation of Micronesia.
Canberra was returning to Australia from an engagement as part of Task Group 635.3's Regional Presence Deployment, while the rest of the task group continued on its way to Hawaii to participate in the Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC).
The ship sailed overnight to reach the search area and in cooperation with US aircraft operating out of Guam, located the men in good condition on 2 August on tiny Pikelot Island – 190 kilometres west of where they had set off in their seven-metre vessel on 30 July.
Crew of 1st Aviation Regiment landed on the beach in an Army recon helicopter, delivered food and water, confirmed the men’s identities and checked they had no major injuries.
The ADF assistance followed a formal request for search-and-rescue support, submitted by the Rescue and Coordination Centre in Guam on the afternoon of 1 August.
“The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue,” said Canberra's Commanding Officer, Captain Terry Morrison.
“In particular, our embarked MRH90 helicopter from No. 808 Squadron and the four armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment were instrumental in the morning search that helped locate the men and deliver supplies and confirm their welfare.
“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world.”
The missing vessel and crew were reportedly sailing from Pulawat to Pulap atolls, a 23-nautical-mile journey, when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.
A Micronesian patrol vessel, FSS Independence, is on its way to the island to pick up the men.
Independence is a Pacific patrol boat built in Australia, delivered and supported by the Australian government.