17 passengers were returned safely to their loved ones thanks to the combined effort of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Aerial Surveillance Program (ASP) aircraft, the Royal Solomon Islands Police (RSIPF) Maritime Division and Australia’s HMAS Ararat over the weekend.
The FFA aircraft was tasked with a Search and Rescue request from the Royal Solomon Islands Police Maritime Division to locate a vessel which did not arrive at its destination. The vessel was located by the aircraft close to the Shortland Islands, and its location was conveyed back to Police Maritime who coordinated with HMAS Ararat to tow the vessel back to port.
Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen acknowledged the ongoing collaboration.
“The value of regional cooperation and the aerial surveillance program to our Pacific Island countries hits home especially when lives are saved. We are grateful to all the partners involved in locating the vessel, and coordinating to return the boat to shore, ” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.
“The FFA aircraft is primarily tasked with providing aerial surveillance to target IUU fishing and transnational crime but can be diverted to search and rescue if in the vicinity of an incident. It was highly fortuitous that the aircraft was in Solomon Islands and could ensure these people were returned home safely to their families.”
RSIPF Police Maritime Commander Nevol Soko thanked FFA and HMAS Ararat for responding swiftly to the request and the continuing support for Solomon Islands.
“Trying to locate the vessel in distress within our vast EEZ would have been very difficult without the aid of the FFA aircraft and also having HMAS Ararat on hand to tow the vessel back to port was crucial. This collaborative effort definitely saved lives,” said Commander Soko.
The FFA Aircraft is funded by Australia as part of its Pacific Maritime Security Program and is available to the 15 Pacific Island members of the FFA. The Program is coordinated by the FFA with two King Air aircraft providing 1440 hours of aerial surveillance per year based on the Pacific Island members’ maritime security priorities.