PORT MORESBY/HONIARA (POST COURIER)—A Tanga Island banana boat that went missing for a month has been found in neighbouring Solomon Islands waters.

The 10 people on board including three women and children were all well, a relative confirmed.

The boat left Namatanai in New Ireland for Tanga Island but never arrived on 23 December, 2021.

The boat and its passengers were found on 23 January, 2022, by a Korean fishing trawler FV Teraaka 80 miles off Malaita and St Isabel islands.

Boat owner Judge Peter Toliken told the Post-Courier last night that the 10 of them including the skipper are still on board the Korean fishing trawler and are undergoing 14 days quarantine as the country is in lockdown.

Judge Toliken said government authorities have already been in contact for a way forward for these people.

The boat travelled out of Namatanai for Tanga on December 23 around 10am in the morning.

“It did not reach its destination.

We realised that it might have encountered problems on Friday December 24,” judge Toliken.

“The skipper last contacted us at 5.52am on Saturday, Christmas Day, giving his position as about 30 kilometres north east of Boang Island.

“We immediately mounted a search on Saturday around the Tanga Group of Islands. We extended the search East to Fead Islands down to Anir Islands or Feni (NIP) on Sunday, December 26 and then onto Nissan Island in Bougainville on Monday, December 27,” he said.

“On Tuesday, December 28, we got information from Buka that the boat was sighted drifting South West of Nissan and Buka.

“It was sighted on Sunday by a boat travelling from Buka to Nissan.

The skipper noticed that the boat was drifting and had passengers on it. It had orange flag which fitted the description of the missing Milesiaro boat.

“But the skipper did not go to the rescue because he suspected it was pirates due to the recent piracy scare between Buka and Nissan.

“On Wednesday, we mounted a search around west coast of Bougainville and up south west to Milne Bay and up north to southern New Ireland and back to Nissan.

“On Thursday 30 December and Friday, 31, the search continued back between Nissan and Buka and down to the west coast of Bougainville around the Torokina waters. On Saturday, 01 January , we got information from a fisherman in Buka that he saw torch lights signals South West of Buka while he was out fishing.

“It was late in the evening, hence, he was not able to investigate because he was on a 19 footer boat powered by a 15hp engine and laden with the day’s catch.

Hence, on Sunday 02 January , 2022, we made a final search, sweeping the area west and south west of Bougainville and up north to southern New Ireland and to Nissan and back to Buka.

And that is when we called off the search on January 2, one week after we started the search. Exactly eight days.

On Saturday 24 December, 2021, when we received the distress call from the skipper Nesik Donald, we contacted the district administrator in Namatanai, who, in turn contacted Manolos Aviation for assistance.

Manolos aviation was preparing to do an aerial search when someone posted on facebook that the boat was rescued and towed into Anir Island. That information derailed or prevented Manolos to do the search.

“By the time we clarified to Manolos aviation that that information was misleading or not true, the weather had deteriorated and Manolos advised the district administrator that it would be futile to conduct the search because it would be difficult to locate the boat in such conditions.

They advised that any search would be best done by a fixed wing aircraft such as SAR plane in Cairns.

“We had alerted the Disaster Officer in Buka, Martin Tsora, who in turn alerted authorities and communities in the Atolls of Bougainville and mainland Bougainville and Buka island. All this time, we were in constant contact with the Disaster Office in Buka and NMSA in Port Moresby.”….PACNEWS

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