Former Ministers media release
Australian patrol ship carries out double medical rescue in Southern Ocean - Friday, 20th October 2006
The Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol ship Oceanic Viking has just completed a 1,800 nautical mile mercy dash from the remote Southern Ocean to the Indian Ocean, to help save the lives of two critically ill men.
One of the men had to undergo emergency surgery on board the Oceanic Viking.
The two patients were eventually transferred in stable condition from the Australian patrol ship to a hospital on the island of La Reunion, east of Madagascar for ongoing assessment and medical care.
The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said the drama began on 11 October when the Oceanic Viking was diverted from a planned patrol of Australian waters around Heard Island and Macdonald Islands.
Senator Ellison said the patrol ship diverted to the French-owned Kerguelen Islands to pick up a seriously ill 43-year-old man, a fisherman from a licensed fishing vessel.
"The man had suffered a heart attack a few days prior and needed urgent transfer to more comprehensive medical facilities in La Reunion, approximately 1,820 nautical miles away."
"En route to La Reunion, the Oceanic Viking then responded to an emergency request for assistance from a bulk carrier, the MV Dynasty, travelling between Brazil and China."
The ship reported that it had a 35-year-old crewman in critical condition with a burst appendix.
"Following an at-sea transfer, the Australian Government Antarctic Division doctor on board the Oceanic Viking performed emergency surgery to stabilise the patient, with the assistance of Customs Officers specially trained as lay surgical assistants."
Senator Ellison said the Oceanic Viking had now resumed its patrol duties in the Southern Ocean.
"Thanks to a treaty between France and Australia on illegal foreign fishing, our interests were always protected while the Oceanic Viking was undertaking this important medical mission," he said.
"This is not the first medical evacuation carried out by the Oceanic Viking. In late 2004, the patrol ship brought a seriously ill fisherman back to Australia from the Southern Ocean.
"The safety of life at sea is the prime concern of any mariner and the Australian Government supports this important international convention. The Oceanic Viking will always respond to distress calls while carrying out its patrol duties.
Note: Images of the sea transfer are available in the image gallery
Matt Francis (02) 6277 7260
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