MAC officers commended for bravery and excellence with national rescue award

Friday, 20 October 2023 05:00:22 AM

Ten officers from the Marine Area Command (MAC) have been recognised for their actions and bravery as part of Australia’s longest ever offshore retrieval during an almost 80-hour rescue mission off the NSW North Coast last year.

Officers from the MAC were notified about 8am on Monday 5 September 2022, by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Canberra, that an emergency beacon had been activated earlier that morning.

Officers were advised the ‘Aviva’, with two men on board and located approximately 180 nautical miles (330km) east of Lord Howe Island, was damaged and taking on water.

The 14.2m vessel was being sailed from New Zealand to Australia by the men – aged 70 and 74 – when severe weather struck, damaging the sails and electrical equipment.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) initially responded with its Melbourne-based challenger rescue aircraft, along with an Australian Defence Force aircraft. Two merchant ships were also re-directed by the JRCC to assist.

After the distance required to travel to the vessel was determined – approximately 595nm or 1100km north-east of Sydney – the NSW Police Force’s vessel 'Nemesis', with a crew of 10, was deployed to assist.

After travelling 36-hours, the Nemesis arrived at the yacht just before 11pm on Tuesday 6 September 2022.

Operating in a 3m swell, a tender was launched from Nemesis and the two men were able to be transferred onto the tender and safely returned to Nemesis.

After refuelling at Lord Howe Island, Nemesis and the two men arrived back in Sydney at 3.30pm the following day (Wednesday 8 September 2022).

It was later established that the rescue was the longest offshore retrieval ever completed by a water police unit anywhere in Australia.

Yesterday (Thursday 19 October 2023), the crew of Nemesis was awarded the Australian National Search and Rescue Award -professional category during a ceremony in Hobart, Tasmania.

Commander of the Marine Area Command, Superintendent Joe McNulty, said it was pleasing to see the crew acknowledged for their efforts and skills.

“This particular rescue was extremely challenging, where the crew were faced with not only a rough swell and darkness but also the very real danger of ropes and cabling from the yacht becoming entangled in the propeller of the tender,” Supt McNulty said.

“I am thrilled that these officers have been recognised with this most prestigious award. My officers constantly train for these types of incidents, and they are professional, highly-competent and work well as a team.

“I know the crew are honoured to receive this award but the biggest reward for them was that they were able to return these two men safely to their families. It really was a job well done,” Supt McNulty said.

The Aviva was unable to be recovered and sunk at sea.