Andre Fraser, NSRI Mossel Bay station commander, said: At 07h40, Saturday, 06 June, NSRI Mossel Bay were alerted by the skipper of a local 14-meter fishing vessel reporting a crewman of his boat missing and he was suspected to have fallen overboard.
It appears that the fishing vessel had departed from Mossel Bay harbour at around 19h00 on Friday evening and most of her crew had retired to their bunks to sleep while the fishing vessel headed towards fishing grounds off-shore of Plettenberg Bay.
On Saturday morning the alarm was raised after one of her crew fishermen, from Mossel Bay, who was believed to have boarded the vessel when she departed the evening before could not be found on the fishing vessel and her crew suspected that he may have fallen overboard during the night.
The fishing vessel was South of Robberg Nature Reserve at the time and had initiated a search heading back towards Mossel Bay and NSRI Mossel Bay launched the sea rescue craft Rescue 15 and St Blaze Rescuer to search a track line on the heading that the fishing trawler had been on during the night on her heading towards Plettenberg Bay.
NSRI Knysna, NSRI Plettenberg Bay and NSRI Wilderness duty crews were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to join in the search and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) initiated a search grid pattern and placed the SA Air Force on alert.
Telkom Maritime Radio Services assisted in communications and an all ships alert was posted on the marine radio emergency frequency.
NSRI EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) assisted with logistics.
NSRI Knysna launched their sea rescue craft Eileen Meadway, Jaytee 4 and Jolen and established a JOCC (Joint Operations Command Centre).
NSRI Wilderness launched the sea rescue craft Spirit of Rotary.
NSRI Plettenberg Bay launched their sea rescue craft Leonard Smith and Ray Farnham and NSRI Plettenberg Bay crew boarded a private aircraft at Plettenberg Bay airport that was volunteered by a local pilot and the aircraft joined in the search.
MRCC coordinated a SAAF 22 Squadron Oryx helicopter that was reportedly preparing to fly to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth to join the search on her way past the search area and the SAAF 22 squadron Oryx helicopter initiated a search on her arrival in the search area.
During land-based investigations, it was determined by security personnel at Mossel Bay harbour that the missing fisherman had been seen at the harbour the night before but some security personnel suggested that the fisherman may not have boarded the fishing vessel.
A phone call was made to the man’s residence and much to everyone’s surprise he was found to be at home and he had not boarded the fishing vessel and he was safe.
NSRI commend the quick reaction to initiate a full-scale search and rescue operation and no harm was done in this false alarm with good intentions.
Rescue resources returned to base and the fishing vessel and her crew, relieved after finding out that their colleague was safe at home, continued on to fishing grounds and all agree that the reaction of the skipper of the fishing vessel can be commended under the circumstances.