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June 24, 2010
FOLLOWING severe 45-knot winds
and torrential rain, HMAS Paluma
(LCDR Mhanda Tokesi) respond-
ed to a mayday call from Fishing
Vessel (FV) On Strike, which had
been hurled onto Hoskyn Reef dur-
ing a storm on April 12.
Paluma was surveying the waters
between Lady Musgrave Island and
Heron Island when the Volunteer
Marine Radio Station announced a
violent squall was anticipated.
Paluma's CO, LCDR Tokesi,
said at about 9.30pm the undesirable
weather developed, followed by may-
"Unprepared for the sudden weath-
er change, two vessels had been flung
up onto the reefs," LCDR Tokesi said.
"By chance, one vessel had
grounded 15 nautical miles from the
infamous MV Shen Neng 1, which
was still aground on Douglas Shoal.
"That vessel was assisted by a
nearby water police vessel. FV On
Strike, however, was out of reach for
the water police but only two-hours
steaming from us."
Paluma made her way about 45
nautical miles east of Gladstone
where she was met by FV On Strike's
Master, who had managed to escape
in his dory but was concerned for the
fishermen still on board the fishing
"The Master explained FV On
Strike had run aground, lost all com-
munications and was suspected to
have a punctured hull and flooded
engine room," LCDR Tokesi said.
Paluma to the rescue
Accompanied by FV On Strike's
Master, Paluma's XO, LEUT
Christopher Diplock, POHSM Ben
Walter, ABHSO Roek Dyer and
ABMT Michael Millott formed a res-
cue team. While the reef was exposed
at low water, the rescue team planned
to walk over it and escort the remain-
ing FV On Strike crew back to safety.
As the rescue team closed the FV
On Strike at 1am they attempted to
establish VHF radio communications.
LCDR Tokesi said it became
apparent that the fishermen on board
FV On Strike could hear the rescue
team's calls but their equipment was
too damaged to respond.
"The fishermen ended up respond-
ing to Paluma's VHF calls by flash-
ing light signals with a torch; one
flash indicating a yes and two flashes
Using this signalling method, the
rescue team determined that nobody
was injured, the FV On Strike's hull
was intact and the fishermen were
prepared to postpone the rescue effort
until weather conditions were safer,
in the morning.
Next morning at dawn, high water
enabled the fishermen to be res-
cued by the Master's dory, and they
returned safely to Paluma.
"FV On Strike was towed off the
reef and anchored in deeper water to
assess damage," LCDR Tokesi said.
"The fishing vessel had no struc-
tural damage and the engines were
serviceable, however, ABMT Millott's
technical expertise was required to
repair the steering."
LCDR Tokesi said that, once the
FV On Strike was repaired, the ship's
Master and crew were eager to get
"The crew were so grateful to be
safe they tried offering us what little
fish they had managed to catch, as a
reward. They could not believe we
were happy to help for free.
"Their overwhelming gratitude
and the teamwork accomplished by
ship's company was thanks enough."
Paluma is the first ship of the
Paluma Class Survey Motor Launch
and the fourth to bear the name
Paluma. She's is a custombuilt survey
vessel, designed for surveying in the
shallow coastal waters of the Great
Barrier Reef and Northern Australia.
She was built by Eglo Engineering
of Adelaide in November 1987 and
Commissioned on February 27, 1989.
TO THE RESCUE: FV On Strike's rescue team, POHSM Ben Walter, XO Palmua LEUT Christopher Diplock,
ABHSO Roek Dyer and ABMT Michael Millott.
Photo: LCDR Mhanda Tokesi
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