HMAS Anzac has supported the rescue of 20 Indonesian fishermen in the Indian Ocean, 670 nautical miles off the coast of Western Australia.

The crew of the fishing vessel Bandar Nelayan were picked up by the Japanese commercial fishing vessel Fukuseki Maru No. 15 following a mayday call that led to an international search effort that included Anzac.

The Indonesian fishermen had been clinging to their partially submerged vessel for a day in rough seas when they were found.

Anzac convened with the Japanese vessel and all 20 fisherman were transferred to Anzac by Royal Australian Navy sailors in a small-boat operation.

A Japanese-speaking member of Anzac’s ship’s company was able to speak to Fukuseki Maru No. 15 crew members to coordinate the transfer.

Commanding Officer HMAS Anzac, Commander Brendan Horn said the immediate priority once the fisherman were on board was their health and safety.

“We have a number of Bahasa Indonesia speakers on board who could communicate with the rescued fishermen who were monitored by the ship’s medical team, including two doctors,” Commander Horn said.

 

While all 20 Indonesian fishermen returned negative COVID-19 test results, Commander Horn said every precaution was taken to ensure the health of everyone on board Anzac.

“This included separating the Indonesian fishermen in their own accommodation area away from the majority of the crew and conducting on-board COVID-19 testing,” he said.

“Everyone interacting directly with the rescued fishermen is wearing full personal protective equipment.”

Anzac had just completed a 10-week regional presence deployment throughout South-East Asia and the north-east Indian Ocean, when it answered the distress call from the Indonesian fishing vessel at the weekend. 

Commander Horn said the quick response by all involved in the rescue operation had turned a potentially tragic situation into a positive one. 

“It is a long-held duty for all mariners to help those in peril at sea and we would like to acknowledge the diligence and professionalism of the Japanese crew who were first on the scene and picked up the Indonesian fishermen,” he said.

“The teamwork of Defence and civilian agencies, including the Australia Maritime Safety Authority, has allowed us to work cooperatively to now be in a position to bring the rescued fishermen home to their loved ones.”

Indonesian fishermen rescued in the Indian Ocean on HMAS Anzac's quarterdeck. Photo: Lieutenant Thomas Dawe