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Coast Guard credits ship-tracking system with successful rescue in western Pacific

The Coast Guard is crediting an automated mutual assistance system with helping to rescue 27 fishermen from a boat that exploded about 550 miles east of Guam today.

Coast Guard Sector Guam activated the mutual assistance system tonight after receiving a report from Japan’s coast guard that the fishing vessel was on fire, Coast Guard spokesman Michael De Nyse said.

The Coast Guard also dispatched the 110-foot patrol boat Washington, which is based in Guam, and a C-130 Hercules plane from Barbers Point Air Station on Oahu. Japan’s coast guard also launched an aircraft to search for the vessel.

The South Islander, a 527-foot Panamanian-flagged cargo ship near the vessel, responded to the request for assistance from the Coast Guard and diverted to the scene, arriving there around 8:10 p.m., De Nyse said. The crew of the fishing vessel had already abandoned their boat, which exploded after the fire, gotten into life rafts and moved a safe distance away from the burning vessel.

They were then safely transferred to the cargo ship and taken to the ship’s next port of call, the Solomon Islands. No one was injured.

“This is an excellent example of when all the players come together, and all the systems really work,” De Nyse said.

The Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System, or Amver, allows the Coast Guard to identify vessels in the vicinity of a ship in distress.

It was launched in 1958 following discussions between commercial shipping representatives and the Coast Guard, according to a Coast Guard website.

Today, about 12,000 ships from over 140 nations participate in Amver, which tracks over 100,000 voyages annually.

De Nyse said it also helped that the fishing vessel was equipped with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which allowed Coast Guard Sector Guam to continually monitor its position.

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