Friday, December 16, 2011

Race against time for Russian fishing boat after it hits iceberg in Antarctica's Ross Sea - 16th Dec 2011

Crew on board a Russian-flagged fishing boat which hit an iceberg in Antarctica's Ross Sea, are frantically trying to remove water from the vessel and repair a hole in its hull.

It could take several days before other boats reach the 708 deadweight-tonne Sparta, which is in distress after hitting an underwater iceberg.

The 23-year-old Sparta issued a distress call around 3am, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

A Hercules aircraft flew over Sparta today to assess ice conditions in the area. The ice was around 1.5 metres thick, RCCNZ said.

"Things are improving, but things are in a very serious situation," Andrey Kulish of San Diego's Sedna Industries Inc said.

Three vessels were heading toward the 23-year-old Sparta, but were having difficulty reaching it as there was heavy sea ice in the area, RCCNZ said.

Kulish believed the collision split a weld in the hull about 1.5 metres below the waterline. It had created a hole which flooded Sparta's biggest hold.

"We are using every pump we have and the water is starting to go down."

The crew was working to redistribute the vessel load and to repair a hole in the hull, RCCNZ said.

The 48m vessel, with 32 crew on board, had a 30cm hole in the side, 1.5 metres below the water line, RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Ramon Davis said.

The vessel was on a 13 degree lean and was still taking on water.

"So far, the crew has managed to keep up with the ingress of water. They have also attached a tarpaulin on the outside of the hull which is helping slow the rate of water into the hold." Davis said. Read More