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Saved by the board: tourist rescued after drifting 6km off Australian coastline

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Japanese man believed to have spent more than 16 hours lost in the ocean saved after floating within view of container ship

A Japanese tourist has been labelled a lucky survivor after he was rescued by a container ship that found him drifting on his surfboard 6km off the Australian coastline.

The 37-year-old man is believed to have spent more than 16 hours lost in the ocean on Friday night, after he paddled out past the waves to avoid the large sets at Bulli beach and was caught in a current, the Illawarra Mercury reported.

No search was launched by authorities as the man had not been reported missing.

Wearing just board shorts and a rash vest and buoyed by his surf board, the man drifted about 6km out to sea until he floated within view of the MSC Damla container ship, anchored off the coast.

[MSC Damla] crew were able to lower the gangway, he was able to paddle over and they basically just plucked him out of the water, Port Kembla Water Police Sergeant Sean Netting told the Mercury.

We couldnt believe it he was hanging on to the board – that was the only thing he had to keep him alive.

NSW police told Guardian Australia the man was taken back to Port Kembla harbour and treated at Wollongong hospital where he was in good health and good spirits.

Obviously in this situation its had a fortuitous outcome for the surfer and its fantastic work by the crew of the cargo ship which rescued him, but from a lifesaving perspective its really important we encourage people to let people know where theyre going to be, a spokesman for Surf Life Saving NSW told Guardian Australia.

This is particularly important when youre doing an activity like surfing or rock fishing … its just good common sense.

The spokesman said they also strongly encouraged people to go surfing with a friend or group of people if possible.

The club has stepped up its calls for people to exercise caution in the water, following a spate of drownings over the summer. In NSW, 18 people have drowned since 18 December, according to authorities. Seven people died within the space of a week over the Christmas period, a toll the Royal Life Saving Society chief executive, Justin Scarr, described as horrific.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/14/saved-by-the-surf-board-tourist-rescued-after-drifting-6km-off-australian-coastline

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