USCG Suspends its Search for Crew of Abandoned Longliner

yong yu sing
Image courtesy Taiwan Fisheries Department

Published Jan 14, 2021 6:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for the 10 crewmembers of the Taiwanese longliner Yong Yu Sing No. 18, who disappeared from their vessel at a position northeast of Midway Atoll.

“As a lifesaving service, making the decision to suspend a search is never easy. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the mariners,” said Capt. Craig O’Brien, the Coast Guard 14th District chief of response. “Coast Guard and Navy aircrews along with our maritime surface partners put forth great effort searching in extremely challenging weather, but unfortunately there has been no sign of the missing mariners."

At the end of December, the owner of the Yong Yu Sing No. 18 contacted Taiwan's National Rescue Command Center and reported that he had lost contact with the vessel. Her 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 heights was developing in the area at the time.

On January 1, 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. 

Persistent poor weather and rough surface conditions have interfered with the attempts of other fishing vessels in the area to reach and board the vessel. The Taiwanese vessel Lian Hong No. 67 managed to come alongside 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, according to Taiwanese media. No signs of the Yong Yu Sing's crew were observed. 

Wind speeds above 20 mph and wave heights of 11-25 feet have been regular fixtures in the search, and conditions are predicted to deteriorate significantly over the course of the next two days. An initial effort by the crew of another fishing vessel to rig a line and take the Yong Yu Sing in tow has not been successful, according to Taiwan's United Daily News. 

Taiwanese-led search efforts continue with multiple fishing vessels engaged and awaiting clear weather. A Taiwan Coast Guard patrol vessel has been dispatched to traverse the 3,500 nm distance to Midway in order to assist.