USCG and US Navy Rescue Stranded Fishermen

Interagency Effort Saves Lives in Remote Micronesian Atoll

Survivors-on-Pikelot-Atoll-USCG-Apr-2024

In a commendable display of interagency cooperation and swift response, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the United States Navy (USN) collaborated effectively to rescue three fishermen who were stranded on Pikelot Atoll in Micronesia. The successful operation, which unfolded over the course of several days, exemplifies the dedication and proficiency of maritime search and rescue efforts in the region.

The sequence of events commenced on April 6 when the USCG Guam station received a distress call from a concerned relative of the missing fishermen. The callers, kin to the three stranded individuals, reported their failure to return from a fishing expedition to Pikelot Atoll, situated approximately 100 nautical miles northwest of Polowat Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia. The trio, aged in their 40s, embarked on their voyage from Polowat on March 31 aboard a 20-foot skiff.

Challenges initially beset the search and rescue mission as locating suitable search assets proved arduous. Nevertheless, perseverance prevailed, leading to the deployment of a USN P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan and the fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry, which was already operating within the vicinity of Micronesia. The search area encompassed over 78,000 square nautical miles, demanding meticulous coordination and utilization of available resources.

Fortuitously, on April 7, the USN P-8 Poseidon aircraft successfully located the mariners on Pikelot Atoll. The stranded individuals had ingeniously crafted a distress signal by arranging palm fronds to spell out “help” on the beach, significantly facilitating their detection. Promptly responding to the situation, the P-8 aircrew airdropped vital survival supplies to the fishermen. Subsequently, a USCG HC-130J aircraft, dispatched from Honolulu, established communication by delivering a radio to the stranded individuals on the following day.

Upon confirming the fishermen’s condition, it was ascertained that while they possessed sufficient food and water, their vessel had sustained damage, rendering it inoperable. Consequently, they sought assistance to facilitate their safe return home. The USCGC Oliver Henry rendezvoused with the stranded mariners on Pikelot Atoll on the evening of April 9 and subsequently undertook their transport back to Polowat, covering a distance of 100 nautical miles.

Reflecting on the operation’s outcome, Lieutenant Ray Cerrato, commanding officer of USCGC Oliver Henry, underscored the profound impact of such missions, emphasizing the tangible difference made in saving lives and fostering human connections. The successful rescue mission near Pikelot Atoll serves as a testament to the unwavering dedication and professionalism exhibited by maritime responders in safeguarding lives and upholding safety at sea.

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