Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia helping to search for 39 crew of sunken Chinese fishing vessel: China

Beijing: China on Thursday said Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and the Philippines have extended emergency help to it in the search and rescue of a Chinese fishing vessel with 39 crew members onboard that sank in the Indian Ocean.

A spokesperson for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) told the Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday that based on drift modelling, a remote 12,000 square km zone has been identified to search for the vessel.

A Chinese deep-sea fishing vessel Lupeng Yuanyu 028 capsized on Tuesday in the central Indian Ocean, which has so far left 39 people on board missing, including 17 Chinese mariners, 17 Indonesian mariners and five Philippine mariners. None of the crew has yet been found.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told the media here on Thursday that “as we speak, the search and rescue operation is still underway”. He said the rescue operation has drawn close attention from across the region.

“Countries such as Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Maldives and the Philippines have extended emergency assistance and sent sympathies for the Chinese boat and crew”, he said, providing an update about the search operations.

“The operation has been commended from various quarters in China and abroad.

The Chinese government sincerely appreciates the help from those countries,” he said.

In New Delhi, the Indian Navy said it deployed a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to help in the search and rescue of a Chinese fishing vessel.

The P8I aircraft carried out multiple and extensive searches on Wednesday despite adverse weather and located multiple objects possibly belonging to the sunken vessel, the Navy said.

“In a display of India’s obligations as a credible and responsible partner for ensuring safety at sea, the Indian Navy units also coordinated search and rescue efforts with other units in the area and guided the PLA Navy warships transiting to the scene of the incident,” the Indian Navy said.

Meanwhile, an AMSA spokesperson said that they continued to coordinate a multinational search effort after a distress beacon signal was received by AMSA from the fishing vessel at about 5.30 am (AEST) on the morning of May 16.

AMSA requested assistance from the Australian Defence Force (ADF). An ADF P-8A Poseidon aircraft was tasked with assisting with the long-range search.

A private charter aircraft from Perth, with State Emergency Service (SES) observers on board, also assisted with the search on Wednesday and will rejoin the search on Thursday.

“A number of merchant ships and other vessels have been assisting with the search and will continue to do so today. AMSA would like to thank these vessels and their crews for their invaluable assistance,” the spokesperson said on Thursday.

“Australia has been liaising with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), with three Chinese naval ships continuing the search in the area today,” the spokesperson said.

Officials said weather conditions have calmed significantly since Tuesday. Four vessels, including two foreign ships, are undertaking on-site search work.

AMSA said it is also working with the China Meteorological Administration to predict the drift of the missing crew, and it is enhancing its coordination with search and rescue agencies in Australia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Official media reported the transport ministry also coordinated with maritime search and rescue agencies of Australia, Maldives and Sri Lanka to send additional forces to carry out search and rescue and made no mention of whether any assistance was sought from India as the Indian Navy has a sizable presence in the Indian Ocean.