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Coast Guard responds to Chinese-flagged fishing vessel in Marshall Islands

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class William Dube, a basic aircrewman trainee for the HC-130J Super Hercules, boards the aircraft to prepare for a training flight in Kodiak, Alaska, Sept. 6, 2018. Since the Super Hercules arrived to Kodiak, training flights are being conducted to ensure all Hercules personnel will get qualified in their respective aircrew position. (Petty Officer 1st Class Charly Hengen/U.S. Coast Guard)

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Barbers Point that was on Wake Island responding to a car carrier ship fire was sent to check on the 308-foot Chinese-flagged commercial fishing vessel Ou Ya Leng No. 6, which was reported to be in distress today in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

At 4:15 a.m., Maritime Rescue Coordination Center China personnel notified the Coast Guard of a fishing vessel taking on water 207 mile northeast of Kwajalein Atoll, the Coast Guard said.

The 24 crew reportedly abandoned ship and headed in a motor lifeboat to Taka Atoll, a small, uninhabited coral island. The Ou Ya Leng No. 6 also ran aground on the island.

“The Hercules crew will attempt to establish contact with the crew and assess the grounded vessel,” the Coast Guard said at the time.

Good Samaritans aboard the commercial vessel Andrea Victory and two sister fishing vessels were also en route.

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“Our first concern is for the crew the vessel, and we are working with our partners to effect a rescue,” Brendon Ritz of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu said in a release. “We are also working with the government of the Marshall Islands to respond to the grounded vessel.”

The Coast Guard said the Ou Ya Leng No. 6, reportedly a fish carrier targeting squid, was operating in Marshall Islands territorial seas.

Fisheries enforcement in exclusive economic zones has become a worldwide concern. The United States has the largest such zone in the world, comprising 2.25 million square miles. Joint U.S. Navy and Coast Guard teams enforce other exclusive economic zone fishing with “shipriders” from the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.

The Hercules crew came from Wake Island after they responded to a “significant” ship fire Monday aboard the 650-foot Sincerity Ace, a Panamanian-flagged car carrier, approximately 2,071 miles northwest of Oahu, the Coast Guard said.

The Sincerity Ace was heading from Japan to Hawaii when its captain reported the fire and an intent to abandon ship, the Coast Guard said.

Good Samaritans aboard four merchant vessels rescued 16 of the 21 crew. Three of the five missing mariners reportedly were located but were unresponsive, the Coast Guard said. Two Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircrews were involved in the response. The planes carry life rafts and other survival gear that can be airdropped.

“This case (the commercial fishing vessel) is unfolding in a remote part of the Pacific with most surface vessels days away; thus the assistance of commercial vessels is extremely valuable to our effort coordinating help for this crew,” Ritz said.

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© 2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.