US helping rescue 24 fishing crew on grounded Pacific ship

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – A large Chinese-flagged fishing ship ran aground on a remote Pacific atoll early yesterday, and the United States (US) Coast Guard said it was helping coordinate the rescue of its 24 crew members.

The 94-metre Ou Ya Leng No 6 ran aground on uninhabited Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands,

Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said. He said a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane had arrived in the area and made contact with the crew, who remained aboard and were using emergency generator power.

West said earlier reports the crew had left the ship and made it ashore on a lifeboat were incorrect. He said the Hercules had circled the area but there was nowhere suitable nearby for it to land.

Two fishing vessels should arrive today to help rescue the crew, West said, adding that the Marshall Islands had also sent a patrol craft. There were no reports of injuries or pollution, according to the Coast Guard.

In this photo released by the United States Coast Guard, the 94 metre Chinese-flagged commercial fish carrier sits aground on Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands yesterday. – AP

West said it wasn’t clear what caused the accident, the crew’s nationalities, or the status of the ship’s cargo and fuel. The fish carrier targets squid in the west and central Pacific Ocean, according to the Coast Guard.

Taka Atoll, also known as Toke Atoll, is part of the Ratak Chain and is not far from Utirik Atoll, which is inhabited by about 400 people. The Marshall Islands is home to about 60,000 people and has close ties to the US under a Compact of Free Association.

West said that decisions about how to deal with the stricken ship would likely be made by the Marshall Islands government as it had grounded in the nation’s territorial waters.

He said that communications with the region were difficult and that the situation remained fluid. The area was experiencing 3.3-metre-high seas and winds of 40 kilometres per hour, with conditions forecast to deteriorate.