Bodies of two crew from missing Chinese fishing vessel found in Indian Ocean

An AMSA-operated Challenger maritime surveillance aircraft (Photo: AMSA)
An AMSA-operated Challenger maritime surveillance aircraft (Photo: AMSA)

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has confirmed the discovery of two deceased crewmembers of a Chinese fishing vessel that disappeared in the Indian Ocean some 5,000 kilometres northwest of Perth earlier last week.

Search and rescue (SAR) teams operating as part of the multinational effort that was launched following the disappearance of the Chinese-owned Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 on Tuesday, May 16, sighted and recovered the bodies of two members of the vessel's 39-strong crew two days later.

The four-day SAR effort ended up covering an area of 12,000 square kilometres but yielded no other sightings by Saturday, May 20, prompting AMSA to order its suspension.

A distress beacon signal was received by AMSA from Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 at about 05:30 AEST on Tuesday. All contact with the vessel was lost shortly afterwards.

Later in the day on Tuesday, the bulk carrier Navios Taurus sighted an upturned hull in the search area.

Weather conditions on Tuesday were extreme with 64-knot winds and seven-metre seas caused by Cyclone Fabian. Conditions abated on Wednesday, May 17, with 21- to 26-knot winds and two- to three-metre seas.

During the four-day search, multiple aircraft were involved, including two from the Australian Defence Force, AMSA's rescue aircraft, and two commercially chartered aircraft, with State Emergency Service observers from Perth on board.

Also assisting in the search are merchant vessels from Panama, the Marshall Islands, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Liberia.

AMSA has been in continuous contact with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Beijing to coordinate search activities and plans. Australia has also been in close communication through Rescue Coordination Centres and diplomatic channels on the transition beyond the search phase of operations.

Ongoing recovery efforts will be led by the Chinese government, AMSA said.

The Australian government is also working closely with authorities from the Philippines and Indonesia, as some of the crew of the missing vessel were citizens of the two countries.

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Baird Maritime / Work Boat World