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Search and rescue units looking for missing boats should look first at paths of ocean currents

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 18/01/2017

Strong ocean currents play a major role in determining destinations of small fishing boats drifting at sea after engine problems causes missing for days and eventual loss of life.

Port Master, Hakaumotu Fakapelea who is an experienced sailor and familiar with the seas in Tonga says the south Sub-tropical current lies parralel to Tongatapu and runs to Samoa across Ha’apai and Vava’u and is the strongest current in our waters.

According to Port Master Hakaumotu Fakapelea the Current travels at a speed of half to 1 knot per hour between Ha’apai and Tongatapu and could be stronger during high winds at sea.

The current Fakapelea said is at most times in harmony with Tonga’s trade wind direction which blows from south east.

Factors that can affect the direction of the flow of the current include meeting of cold and warm waters in the ocean which changes temperatures and strength of current.

The shapes of the islands and sea bed contours are also contributing factors to changes in direction of the current.

Most of the incidents at sea according to Fakapelea are boats whose sizes are smaller then those required by law to be fully equipped with safety facilities.

Boats 15 feet (15ft) long or lower are not monitored by government.

Fakapelea says, there are other means fishermen can use to help them call for help when lost at sea.

This includes a piece of mirror to attract planes when searching for them, and they should be responsible for their own safety first by preparing the necessary equipment and facilities.

© Radio and Television Tonga News