Five people have been rescued in the Vitiaz Strait, Papua New Guinea, by the AAL Newcastle after a banana boat ran out of fuel 29 nautical miles from shore. Responding to an alert from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s (AMSA’s) Search and Rescue department (JRCC), the AAL Newcastle was able to come to the aid of the drifting banana boat and its crew of five, lifting the boat to safety and ensuring its safe passage to its destination.
The banana boat and five people on board were transiting from Lae Port to Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, on 11 January 2015 when their vessel ran low on fuel. While the crew of AAL Newcastle offered their spare fuel, it would not have been enough for the boat to reach its destination. The decision was taken by the Master of the AAL Newcastle, Captain Constantinescu Niculae, to utilise the ship’s provision crane to safely secure the 7 meter long vessel and lift it out of the water and onto the ship’s deck.
The vessel then set a different course from its original route to the Port of Brisbane in order to return the vessel and crew safely to Lae Port, Papua New Guinea, where they disembarked a short distance from shore. The Master and crew maintained communication with the JRCC throughout and ensured identification and medical checks were conducted on the rescued persons.
Captain Constantinescu Niculae commented on the incident: “We were in the vicinity and did what any responsible seamen would do in responding to the call for assistance for the drifting banana boat. Thankfully, we were able to safely lift the crew and their vessel on board and ensure their safe transit to the Port of Lae. My crew did a fantastic job and we are pleased that we were able to help.”