An aerial view of the Durban coastline. Picture: Terry Haywood.

Cape Town - Sixteen Taiwanese fishermen were rescued off the coast of South Africa on Thursday when after the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), based in Cape Town, was alerted to a fire onboard which forced them to abandon ship.

The crew of the Taiwanese fishing vessel Teng Ming Yang No.268 were all reported to be safe after being rescued by a sister vessel shortly after 9am.

MRCC Cape Town was alerted at around 6.45am via the COSPAS SARSAT system (EPIRB detection) of the Teng Ming Yang possibly needing assistance more than 1 100 kilometres south east of Durban.

The MRCC team on duty immediately contacted the Taipei Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) to obtain additional details while using the satellite AIS system to identify any vessels near Teng Ming that could be called upon to assist.

Taipei RCC reported that Teng Ming had reported a fire onboard and its 16 crew members were going to abandon the vessel to life rafts.

Telkom Maritime Radio then issued a MAYDAY RELAY for vessels in the area to assist.

The vessel, Mearsk Lanco, which was approximately 500 kilometres away, responded to the MAYDAY appeal, but was stood down after the MRCC was notified by Taipei RCC that a sister vessel had already been diverted and was en-route to rescue the fishermen.

The sister vessel arrived in the area just after 9am and the 16 fishermen were rescued from the life raft.

The Teng Ming Yang was still burning and sinking slowly.

A navigational warning has been issued to other ships in the area.

Sobantu Tilayi, acting CEO of SAMSA, hailed the rescue operation as demonstrating South Africa’s commitment to safety of life at sea and to its seamless interaction with other governments and NGOs involved with maritime rescue.

“South Africa’s search and rescue systems are world class and the country has yet again demonstrated its position as a leading maritime nation in the field of safety at sea,” says Tilayi.

Cape Argus