22 fishermen rescued as vessel sinks in Tuvalu waters

PHOTO: Jin Hui No.18

Twenty-two fishermen were dramatically rescued on Sunday morning, minutes before their vessel sank in the waters of the South Pacific. 

The FV Marielle, a purse seine fishing vessel owned by the Caroline Fisheries Corporation in Micronesia, put out a distress signal on Saturday night after one of its enginest caught fire and the boat began taking on water. 

Fisheries observer Tupa Taoa, who was on board the vessel, put out a distress signal Saturday late afternoon. 

He reported a fire in one engine broke out and while the vessel had no engine power while the crew was working to put out the fire, the vessel took on water, causing the crew to put the vessel’s emergency skiff into the water and get in it, fearing the fishing boat would soon sink. 

The Marielle was in Tuvalu waters when it sent out the distress signal Saturday night. 

The Pan Pacific Foods (PPF) tuna processing company in the Marshall Islands received a call for help from the Pohnpei-based Caroline Fisheries Corporation. PPF operates six purse seiners flagged to the Marshall Islands which were out fishing. 

A report issued by the rescue vessel Sunday morning said: “After receiving the (call) for help, Pacific Pacific Foods reported the situation to the parent company, got a positive response, and immediately assigned our tuna purse seiner Jin Hui 18 to the rescue.” 

Pan Pacific Foods is part of a China-based fisheries company. 

When the Jin Hui 18 received the directive to assist the Marielle, its huge net was in the water mid-way through a set, loaded with tuna. 

“In order to save time, the captain decided to release the fish in the net,” the report said. It took about four hours to reel in the large net and then the Jin Hui 18 headed to the last known position of the Marielle in Tuvalu waters, said the ship’s report. 

The Jin Hui arrived at the location – transmitted by the vessel the night before – at about 6am Sunday. 

“The Marielle was found to be flooding and sinking, and all the crew were on board skiff waiting for rescue,” said the Jin Hui’s report. 

The Marshall Islands-based purse seiner quickly rescued the 22 crew. No one was injured despite the sinking of their fishing vessel. 

Several hours after the dramatic Sunday morning rescue, the Jin Hui transferred the 22 crew members to the vessel Nivaga3, which took the rescued crew to Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, for repatriation by plane