At 20h00 on Sunday the 14th of December, NSRI Headquarters were alerted by concerned family members reporting 6 fishermen on the boat MARK EYE III suspected to be overdue from fishing.
They had launched at Millers Point at 05h00 and according to family they normally came home at between 5p.m. and 6p.m. but all efforts to raise them by cellphone had failed and family were now concerned as it appeared that they were well overdue.
NSRI Simonstown duty crew were placed on alert while Telkom Maritime Radio Services attempted to reach the crew of MARK EYE III on VHF emergency frequency Channel 16 and the informal Scarborough Radio attempted to reach them on Marine Radio Channel 71 (the fishing communities radio frequency) but after attempts to raise them by radio failed a red flag was raised and Telkom Maritime Radio Services broadcast an all ships alert, every 15 minutes, for vessels in the area to be on the look-out while continuing to attempt to raise MARK EYE III on the VHF emergency radio frequency.
With a vast area of ocean that would need to be searched, not knowing from family exactly where the men would have gone fishing off-shore of Cape Point and not knowing their fate, NSRI Simonstown, NSRI Hout Bay and NSRI Gordons Bay duty crews were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) were alerted to begin plotting a search pattern and to begin planning for the deployment of an SA Air Force Dakota fixed wing aircraft for a first light aerial search in case the men could not be found during the night.
Darren Zimmerman, NSRI Simonstown station commander, who was coordinating the search and rescue response, said that later in the evening boaters returning from fishing reported that some boats had stayed at sea to fish later than normal as the fish had been running and while this information was positive, because the boat was not answering their radio, the worst continued to be feared and a full scale search and rescue response continued to play out.
Then at close around 21h30 information from family confirmed that the fishermen had phoned family to say they were safe and returning to Port and NSRI and the search and rescue operation was called off.
It appears that the fishermen may have closed hatches to head for home and in the more or less 2 hours that efforts were being made to reach them by cellphone or by VHF radio they were not maintaining a listening watch as they could not hear their radio.
NSRI are urging boaters at sea, particularly fishermen, to maintain the compulsory watch on the Emergency VHF Radio Frequency channel 16 at all times.
Boaters and any craft launching to go to sea are also urged to let a responsible person know your departure time your exact route and intentions and your return time, stick to your intended plan, if it deviates let that responsible person know of the changes.
The responsible person on shore should have the sea rescue emergency numbers programmed into their phone (sea rescue emergency numbers can be obtained at www.nsri.org.za).
A plan of action should be formulated with the responsible person on the shore so that if you don’t return on schedule (and if you haven’t let them know of changes to your intended routine) that person should call sea rescue without delay.
But boaters out of cellphone range also have the option of calling Telkom Maritime Radio Services on Marine Radio Frequency to let them know that they are safe and that their plans have changed.
In this case the family members are commended for alerting sea rescue of their concerns.