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Cruise ship saves 3 fishermen floating out in open ocean

On Sunday, Feb. 19, the Samoa News website received a comment from the MV Seabourn Odyssey crew, saying they had just saved three fishermen a few hours before. The comment was posted at 11:23 p.m.

The crew referenced a story they had read on, as reported by the  Observer, “Search still on for fishermen” in a link posted on Samoa News website on Thursday, Feb. 16.

The comment from the cruise ship noted that “We saved 3 fishermen a few hours ago. This might be the 3 missing fishermen. We are on our way to Pago Pago. Our next port of call. Fishermen are in good health and are well taken care of by our staff.“ It was signed, “Greetings, Seabourn Odyssey Crew”.

Samoa News has learned that the three Samoan fishermen did come into port on the MV Seabourn Odyssey which arrived yesterday, President’s Day and it was believed that they were taken to LBJ Medical Center for observation.

Attempts by Samoa News to reach the fishermen, or ASG Port or Immigration officials for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.

However, USCG Lt. Caskey of the USCG Marine Safety Detachment, American Samoa, told Samoa News that the three men had been drifting at sea for about 17 days. According to Lt. Caskey, the men had left to go fishing “for a few hours” from Upolu about two weeks ago.

“They left in the morning, and were supposed to be back in the evening,” said Lt. Caskey. The local Coast Guard unit was not aware of the fishermen’s plight for about two days, and when they did hear of it, they coordinated with the airlines (Inter-Island Air and Polynesian Airlines) as well as local purse seiners through the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) in New Zealand.

He explained that the RCC releases “drift data” to aid in ocean searches. Drift data examines and reports upon “ the direction they probably drifted, based on information about the type of boat, tide, currents, etc.

Lt. Caskey noted this information is run through a computer program that gives authorities “the most probable area or quadrant in which to search... all search planning is based on that,” he said.

The Observer story said that the search for three Samoan fishermen and their boat the ‘Fefe i le Sou II’ had been missing at sea since Monday (now, two weeks ago) and were told by the Police Maritime Wing adviser, Matthew Richardson that a search was continuing, but a decision would be made by last week (Friday) whether to continue or not.

“We don’t want to call off the search until the entire search area that RCC NZ’s computer modeling developed based on drift rates, wind and weather has been properly searched’” he said in an email message to the Observer.

 Richardson said that included the “rugged coastline of Tutuila in American Samoa”. He also indicated that “US flagged fishing vessels and Inter Island Airways are assisting over there. Polynesian Airlines had also offered to help by keeping an eye out.”

Richardson noted in the Observer story, “The search might be called off by Tuesday afternoon (today) if nothing has been found, as the P3 Orion is a very capable search aircraft, and if the alia was floating then they really should have found it by now.”

It was not immediately known exactly where the MV Seabourn Odyssey picked up the three fishermen, but the comment received on Samoa News website held good news on Sunday evening.

The Seabourn Odyssey is one of the smaller vessels to call into the port of Pago Pago in recent days, with its 450 passengers and 335 crew members, but given the three extra guests on board, it was an exceptionally happy visit.

The ship is the first new ship built for Seabourn Cruise Line in over a decade. About 90% of the ship’s suites have private verandas. Some of the MV Seabourn Odyssey’s features include one of the largest spas featured on a cruise ship, a built-in marina and expanded guest services compared to the older Seabourn fleet. The ship includes eleven decks with with two swimming pools, six outdoor whirlpools, water sports from the marina and a private diamond showroom.

The retreat features a nine-hole mini golf course, a giant chess board and shuffleboard.

Before making her stop here in the territory (and before her welcome rescue of the drifting fishermen, she had visited Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji. Her next stops will be in Tabuaeran Fanning Island, Hawaii and then on to Los, Angeles on May 3.

Samoa News sends out a special thank you to the captain and crew of the MV Seabourn Odessy for their rescue of the fishermen, bringing happy news to our shores.