The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has declined to put out a daily alert to merchant vessels and aircraft to be on the lookout for the Nina, the 70? Burgess designed 1928-built schooner that went missing in the Tasman Sea some seven months ago with six Americans and one British crew on board.
New Zealand authorities have long refused to continue the search but a spokesman for the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ) confirmed that an independent reviewer will be reporting on the search operation by New Zealanders.
In addition, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, who met the family of one of the missing crew yesterday in Wellington, is seeking answers over what happened.
Nina in happier days
The 85-year-old schooner sailed from Opua on May 29, bound for Newcastle, Australia. It was last heard from on June 4 during a storm in the Tasman Sea.
A massive New Zealand-led search found nothing and was called off, but families of the missing have continued to look ever since, citing many instances of sailors surviving at sea for long periods.
The parents of crew member Danielle Wright, 18, Ricky and Robin Wright, of Louisiana, say they have spent US$500,000 (NZ$620,000) of their own money running private searches out of Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and Queensland.
The Wrights were in Queensland this month looking for a piece of wood with the letters 'ina' on it. They told Fairfax News that a fisherman had advised he had seen it at Waddy Pt on Fraser Island, 240 kilometres north of Brisbane. They did not find it and conceded later the broken wood could have come from a sign with the words 'China' or 'marina' on it.
Nina's fate is disputed in sailing circles. Soon after the Nina was given up for lost by authorities industry personnel in New Zealand asserted that it would have failed the standard 'Cat-1' inspection Maritime New Zealand imposes on all locally flagged vessels leaving the country. Foreign-flagged boats are not required to undergo inspection. Local New Zealanders claimed she was leaking badly in Opua, that the skipper admitted she had 'keel' wag in a seaway, and that the boat had not been hauled for three years.
The boat sailed despite bad weather warnings of a low forming in the Tasman Sea.
On the other hand, the skipper of the yacht, American sailor David Dyche, 58, was a very experienced seaman. No SOS messages were received, nor was its EPIRB set off, which had to be done manually. Its last message, received only after some technical delay, said it was under bare masts in a storm.