THE Fiji Navy yesterday revealed that it spends between $7000 to $10,000 a day when conducting search and rescue operations in the country.
These statistics came to light as the Navy enters the fourth day of searching for the remaining four men that were on board the Yavu Youth vessel that sunk off the coast of Wakaya.
Fiji Navy Commander John Fox said the amount spent on search and rescue operations depended on the size of the area being searched.
"This is a rough estimate but the amount spent by the Navy when conducting a search and rescue exercise is around $7000-$10,000 per day," Commander Fox said.
These figures, however, do not take into account the lower end estimate of $2000 per hour spent on hiring planes for a search.
"This figure is a lower estimate. Sometimes the smaller planes that do charge the $2000 per hour rate are not available so then the larger planes must be used and obviously this will cost more," Cdr Fox said.
"The Navy does not receive an exact search and rescue budget though. We usually take these expenses out of our operational budget."
However, Cdr Fox explained the Navy was not always responsible for conducting search and rescue operations stating instead that they only stepped in when there was a lack of resources.
"Our primary role is to co-ordinate search and rescue operations," he explained.
With the tragic loss of lives involved in maritime disasters and the subsequent high cost of sea search and rescue operations, Commander Fox pleaded for the travelling public to exercise caution while out at sea.
"We just want to advise people to keep an eye on weather reports and ensure that they have the appropriate number of life jackets and other equipment," Commander Fox stated.
"We understand as well that we are nearing the festive season and people may want to visit their villages in the islands so it is a prudent time to reiterate these precautions."
"It is also important to refrain from alcohol when making these trips in fibre glass boats," he added.
Meanwhile calls have come from experienced seafarers to ensure that boat license training is decentralised in order to save more lives at sea.
"If we can bring the Class 6 license training away from Suva and to some of these outer islands, it will mean that the boat captains will understand the need for proper procedures like having enough life jackets, spare parts for the engine and flares," Mr Philip said.
"They will also understand the importance of loading correctly and they will be confident in their abilities, most of these young men want to learn but they have no means of doing so," he said.
Meanwhile the Navy will decide today on whether to continue the search for the four men still missing at sea.