Tonga’s lifeboat crews had launched 22 rescue and search operations since 2015 saving 72 lives, Police Commissioner Steve Caldwell said.
However, four lives are still missing at sea and three bodies were recovered since the launch of the three new police SAR boats two years ago, he said.
Caldwell reminded the public it was important to get familiar with Tonga’s Boating Safety Code, no matter what kind of boat they use.
“Although we cannot put a dollar sign on a life saved, every time a Marine SAR is carried out, especially with assistance from NZ (NZ Airforce Orion), it may run to hundreds of thousands of dollars, all because of the selfish, irresponsible and reckless actions of individuals who should know better”, Caldwell said.
He said mariners and seafarers have to make sure that they have a life jacket, emergency flares, a beacon, a radio and a backup engine and sufficient fuel for the return voyage and a fully charged cell phone.
The Police commissioner also said: “I praise the expertise and the courage of my staff in performing these rescues.
“I would like to acknowledge the assistance from His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) Regional Coordination Centre NZ (RCCNZ), Royal New Zealand Airforce, local fishermen as well as the coastal radio for all their assistance every time there is a Search and Rescue Operation.”