‘Very important’: Xi’s demand for Aussie help

australian maritime safety authority challenger aircraft
AMSA aircraft is searching for the Chinese fishing vessel about 5000km northwest of Perth in a remote section of the Indian Ocean.

China’s ambassador to Australia has issued a demand on behalf of his President Xi Jinping, calling on Australia to assist in the search for a missing Chinese fishing vessel with 39 people on board.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) aircraft are searching a 12,000sq km patch of the Indian Ocean, about 5000km northwest of Perth and 1500km south of Sri Lanka, for the Lu Peng – Yuan YU.

Ambassador Xiao Qian addressed the media on Thursday, where he said a number of countries were being asked to assist.

Chinese New Year’s Press Gathering
China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, called on Australia to co-ordinate with other nations to comb the search area. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

“President Xi has made very important instructions … to co-ordinate with our friendly countries, Australia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and other relevant countries for a possible immediate search and rescue,” he said.

“This is within Australia’s search and rescue area, but it’s pretty far from the Australia continent.

“We wish our Australian colleagues will co-ordinate with other international or foreign vessels or ships near the area to help to search and rescue to save as many lives as possible.”

Mr Xiao said of the 39 on board, 17 are from China, 17 from Indonesia and five are from the Philippines.

“AMSA requested assistance from the Australian Defence Force,” said an AMSA spokesperson.

“An ADF P-8A Poseidon aircraft was tasked with assisting with the long-range search. The ADF aircraft will re-join the search (on Thursday) after overnighting in the Maldives.

“A private charter aircraft from Maxem Aviation in Perth, with SES observers on board, also assisted with the search (on Wednesday) and will re-join the search today after overnighting in the Maldives.”

australian maritime safety authority challenger aircraft
AMSA aircraft is searching for the Chinese fishing vessel in a remote section of the Indian Ocean about 5000km northwest of Perth.

“A number of merchant ships and other vessels have been assisting with the search … Australia has been liaising with the Chinese Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), with three Chinese naval ships continuing the search in the area.

“This area has been determined by drift modelling carried out by AMSA, informed by information supplied by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, and other sources.”

AMSA described the weather conditions in the area on Tuesday as “extreme” due to cyclone Fabian, with winds of up to 120km/h and swells of up to seven metres.

The distress signal from the boat was detected early on Tuesday morning, with bulk carrier Navios Taurus spotting an upturned hull in the area later that day, but with no signs of survivors.

“What has been discovered now is that there seems to be [a capsized ship] and looks likely to be the Chinese fishing ship,” said Mr Xiao.

“But to this moment, no individual has been found alive whatsoever.”