Mysterious Abandoned Longliner Taken in Tow Off Midway

Courtesy Taiwan Fisheries Department

Published Jan 12, 2021 2:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

After weeks of effort to reach her, the abandoned fishing boat Yong Yu Sing No.18 has been taken under tow and will be boarded as soon as weather allows. 

On January 1, the owner of the Taiwanese tuna longliner Yong Yu Sing No. 18 contacted Taiwan's National Rescue Command Center and reported that he had lost contact with the vessel. The vessel's AIS transmission was last detected by satellite at 1500 hours local time on December 29, when she was located at a position about 530 nm to the northeast of Midway Atoll. Tracking provided by Pole Star shows that a weather system with extreme wave height was approaching the area at the time.

On January 2, a U.S. Coast Guard long-range SAR aircraft located the missing vessel at a position about 600 nm northeast of Midway. Imagery showed damage to the wheelhouse and no signs of the crew, and one of the vessel's liferafts was missing. 

Continued heavy weather interfered with the attempts of other fishing vessels in the area to reach and board the vessel. The Taiwanese vessel Lian Hong No. 67 finally reached the drifting Yong Yu Sing on January 11, and while seas were too rough for a boarding, the Lian Hong's crew called over and banged on the vessel's hull. No sign of the Yong Yu Sing's crew was observed. 

On January 12, the fishing vessel Yi Rong No. 18 approached the Yong Yu Sing and managed to rig a tow line. Their plan is to tow the derelict ship out of the range of heavy weather and conduct a boarding and search as early as Wednesday morning. 

A coordinated effort is under way to search for the missing crew, given the possibility that they may have abandoned ship. The Taiwan Coast Guard patrol ship Hsun Hu No. 8 has been dispatched to transit the 3,500 nm distance from Taiwan to Midway in order to contribute to the search. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard are also providing assets for the operation. 

“We continue to work closely with our partners during the search efforts and to date have consecutively completed 29 search sorties lasting 73-hours in total and covering more than 40,000 square nautical miles,” said Cmdr. Scott Higbee, a Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu (JRCC) search and rescue mission coordinator. “We will continue to coordinate closely and look into all search options while we move forward.”