Search for eleven Russian fishermen called off –

Search for eleven Russian fishermen called off Published:  11 January, 2011

AN air sea search for at least 11 Russian fishermen missing since their trawler sank in heavy seas four days ago has finally been called off.

An emergencies ministry spokesman told news agencies that the “active phase” of the search and rescue mission off Sakhalin Island was over but that ships passing through the area would continue to be on the lookout for any signs of life or debris.

The fishing boat, called The Partnyor, sank on Friday after reporting in a dramatic radio message that the vessel was in difficulties and the crew would not be able to hold on for long.

Her skipper said in a message that was later distributed by the federal fisheries agency that the vessel was going under and only one of the liferafts had deployed.

The agency’s chief Andrei Krainy told the Russian state television that he was “100 per cent certain that this was an illegal ship” because it was registered in Belize and sailing under a Cambodian flag.

He said: “We cannot possibly track ships like that. It is believed there were between 11 and 14 people on board and that the vessel had sailed from Sakhalin Island.”

He added that without wet suits or liferafts the crew had little chance of survival in waves that were over three and a half metres high.

Meanwhile, in a separate operation, the Russian authorities are still trying to free a fish processing vessel trapped in the ice with 348 people on board in the Sea of Okhotsk.

The vessel was one of three trapped during a storm on December 30, two of which have already been freed by icebreakers.

But news reports said the Sodruzhestvo fish processing vessel with was too wide to use the path cleared by the two icebreakers and that it would need a special rescue operation planned for later this week. The Sodruzhestvo is carrying a 75-day supply of food and water.