Butiraoi a week overdue, NZ asked to search

Kiribati ferry MV Butiraoi
Kiribati ferry MV Butiraoi

Maritime NZ news release, 27 January 2018, 8:30am (NZDT)

RCCNZ assists search for Kiribati ferry

The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand is assisting the Fiji rescue services in searching for an inter-island ferry overdue in Kiribati with an estimated 50 people on-board.

A New Zealand Airforce P3 Orion left early this morning to assist with the search. RCCNZ is determining the search area for the aerial activity, and for a local vessel to begin checking near the route between Nonouti Island and Betio Tarawa in the Kiribati Islands.

The MV Butiraoi, a 17.5 metre wooden catamaran, was reported overdue last night, after departing Nonouiti on January 18. The 240 kilometre voyage was expected to take two days.

Searchers are looking for a vessel with a dark blue hull and yellow accommodation quarters, with an estimated 50 locals on board.

RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer John Ashby says the New Zealand Maritime Operations Centre and Kiribati Tarawa Radio are broadcasting for sightings on maritime radio. Contact is also being made with all islands along the route for sightings.

“We are doing everything we can to locate this ferry and its passengers. We understand the vessel underwent repairs to its propeller shaft just before it departed. This may have contributed to problems navigating the journey.

“The weather in that part of the Pacific is currently moderate with some swells.”