Sri Lanka Navy conducts risky diving operation at overturned Chinese fishing vessel in high seas
The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) embarked on a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation to assist the ongoing operations at the overturned Chinese fishing vessel LU PENG YUAN YU 028, which was reported on 16th May 2023 in Australian Search and Rescue Region, south of Sri Lanka. At the directives of Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera, the Sri Lanka Navy's Offshore Patrol Vessel, SLNS Vijayabahu with a team of Navy divers was directed to engage in this crucial mission.
As per Sri Lanka’s commitment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) Colombo established at the Navy Headquarters, is responsible for coordinating and facilitating maritime search and rescue operations in its designated region as well as neighbouring regions.
As SLN arrived on the scene, the regional stakeholders have already commenced extensive aeronautical search and surface search in the area of overturned Chinese fishing vessel. Having reached the location, the courageous Sri Lanka Navy divers meticulously searched for air pockets within the upturned vessel, hoping to find any survivors. After strenuous diving amidst the challenges of zero visibility and enormous water turbulence, the Navy divers recovered 02 bodies from the captain’s cabin and accommodation area and they were handed over to the Tug De Tian on scene.
In addition, the Navy divers located 12 more bodies of the crew from various compartments of the vessel. Due to decomposition and the potential health hazards posed by operating in contaminated waters with limited protective gear, it was determined that retrieving those bodies would be exceedingly dangerous. Next, the decision was made to map the locations of the bodies, while prioritizing the safety of the SLN divers.
Subsequently, the Diving officer and Navy divers attached to SLNS Vijayabahu embarked on MV SHANDONG DE LONG which arrived there with a team of Chinese salvage team and made them a comprehensive briefing on the mapped locations of corpses, safe passages for divers to enter and exit the overturned vessel as well as the onward action today (23 May).
On completion of its intended task, SLNS Vijayabahu concluded its SAR operation and commenced the return journey on 22nd May.