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Fiji Time: 6:44 PM on Wednesday 23 April

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Navy stand-down salvage call

Avinesh Gopal
Monday, October 08, 2012

THE Fiji Navy did not send a vessel out to assist the yacht Bahari because the situation was not a search and rescue operation but rather a salvage operation.

Chief of Fiji Navy Commander John Fox said, "salvage becomes a commercial thing. Search and rescue is our part".

Cdr Fox said people who passed the message for help from the yacht to the Fiji Navy were not clear on what was actually requested.

"They did not make out what was the nature of distress and the message was sent on VHF, which does not have a good signal and is for short range only," he said.

Cdr Fox was commenting on concerns raised by the Bahari skipper Jose Carlos, who said he was unhappy with the Navy's claim via the media that the message was not clear.

The yacht's skipper said they called for help from 6am to 6pm last Saturday and the only help they got was from Wananavu Beach Resort and Safari Lodge in Rakiraki.

Mr Carlos said they got a call from the Fiji Navy last Sunday but it was too late by then.

Cdr Fox said the Rescue Coordination Centre in Suva received a report on the morning of September 29 from the Suva Ports Authority regarding the running aground of pleasure yacht Bahari with three people on board.

"The nature of the distress and exact location of the yacht was unspecified in the initial report, however this was clarified when RCC Suva managed to contact the yacht on radio telephone," he said.

He said the captain of the yacht contacted RCC Suva at 1:09pm on satellite phone and the yacht's position was confirmed at Vatu-I-Ra passage.

Cdr Fox said the captain informed RCC Suva that the three crew members onboard were safe and required assistance in the form of salvage in order for the yacht to be towed off the reef.

"The case was then determined by RCC Suva to no longer be a distress but rather a request for assistance."

He said RCC Suva co-ordinates all search and rescue operations in Fiji waters and was an organisation that was staffed and manned 24 hours seven days week.

"The report was passed on to various concerned authorities including the Fiji police station in Levuka and broadcasted by the Suva radio station 3DP.

"The Fiji Navy as per the roles and responsibilities did not send a vessel out to assist the Bahari due to the fact that the situation was not a search and rescue operation but rather a salvage operation."

Cdr Fox said the RCC Suva then confirmed at 8:25am last Sunday that the Bahari was salvaged from its initial position and the crew was safe.