U.S. Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Fisherman off Hawaii

search plane c130
File image courtesy USCG

Published Sep 13, 2020 3:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for a fisherman who went missing Wednesday about 300 miles to the east of Hawaii. 

At 0630 hours on Wednesday, Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu received a call from the fishing vessel St. Marie Anne, which is homeported in Honolulu. The St. Marie Anne's captain reported that a crewmember was missing and had last been seen at about 0400 hours. 

The victim, Phouc Nguyen, was a 53 years-old Vietnamese man. When last seen, he was wearing shorts and a white t-shirt with no life jacket.

JRCC Honolulu launched an aircrew at 0900 from Air Station Barbers Point. The cutter Joseph Gerczak and the cutter Kimball also began a search, joined by the crew of the St. Marie Anne. 

The crews searched for about 77 hours and covered nearly 9,000 square nautical miles - an area roughly the size of New Hampshire. However, the search was not successful, and it was suspended Friday. 

“We always want to continue searching with every asset at our disposal,” said Lt. Diane French, Command Duty Officer at JRCC Honolulu. “It’s always a difficult decision to suspend."

The majority of fishermen in Hawaii's commercial fleet are foreign nationals, primarily from Vietnam, Indonesia, Kiribati and the Philippines. Wages may be as low as $1 per hour, and the non-U.S. crewmembers are generally not permitted to disembark on U.S. soil.