When you think of rescue at sea, most voyagers no doubt image the excitement of a being winched aboard a helicopter in stormy seas. Many rescues, however, are performed by merchant ships that are participating in the worldwide Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue (AMVER) system. Tied into the search and rescue centers, the Coast Guard administered AMVER system directs participating rescue vessels to other mariners in distress. A recent rescue just a few days before Christmas off Hawaii illustrates how the process works.
From the press release: A 43 year old Wailuku man was rescued by the Amver participating merchant ship CS Victory after his 30 foot sailing vessel began taking on water 230 miles off the coast of Maui December 13.
The sailor notified United States Coast Guard rescue coordinators and activated his 406 MHz emergency beacon after the starboard bow broke off and the center hull began taking on water.
In a multi-agency response, the United States Coast Guard diverted a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion along with the USCG Cutter Galveston to assist. It was the 585 foot Panamanian flagged merchant ship CS Victory, however, that arrived on scene and rescued the Hawaiian sailor. The CS Victory, a participant in the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System, was approximately four hours away from the distress position.
Captain Toshiyuki Fukuhara, master of the CS Victory, braved 20 knot winds to coordinate the rescue operations. Within six hours of the initial notification Captain Fukuhara had the survivor safely on board this ship. The CS Victory will take the survivor to its next port of call, Japan, where United States Embassy personnel will assist the survivor return to Hawaii.
The Amver system rescued 450 people in 2007.
Amver, sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, is a unique, computer-based, and voluntary global ship reporting system used worldwide by search and rescue authorities to arrange for assistance to persons in distress at sea. With Amver, rescue coordinators can identify participating ships in the area of distress and divert the best-suited ship or ships to respond. Prior to sailing, participating ships send a sail plan to the Amver computer center. Vessels then report every 48 hours until arriving at their po rt of call. This data is able to project the position of each ship at any point during its voyage. In an emergency, any rescue coordination center can request this data to determine the relative position of Amver ships near the distress location. On any given day there are over 3,200 ships available to carry out search and rescue services.