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NZ Air Force to the rescue of Russian fishing vessels caught in Antarctic ice

Saturday, December 17th 2011 - 06:06 UTC
Full article 8 comments
The ‘Sparta’ hit an underwater iceberg and is heavily listed (AP Photo/Maritime New Zealand) The ‘Sparta’ hit an underwater iceberg and is heavily listed (AP Photo/Maritime New Zealand)

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C130 Hercules is making an emergency flight, laden with life-saving supplies, for sinking Russian fishing vessel Sparta stranded in Antarctica.

The plane flew out of Christchurch Saturday morning on a seven-hour journey to deliver pumping equipment and fuel to the stricken ship.

Sparta crew worked overnight to stabilise the vessel after the 23-year-old 55m vessel struck a submerged iceberg next to the ice shelf of Antarctica, east of the Ross Sea, about 3704 kilometres southeast of New Zealand.

They have made good progress, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) says, as they wait for help.

Two fishing vessels are making their way to the ailing ship sinking in the Southern Ocean with 32 crew aboard but are not expected to reach the area for another two or three days.

Most of the 32 crew members, made up of 15 Russians, 16 Indonesians and a Ukrainian, have been evacuated on life-rafts with fresh water and supplies and are now waiting on the ice.

Meanwhile the captain, officers and engineers stayed on board to pump water from the vessel and attempt to patch a hole in its hull to slow the intake of water.

After it struck the iceberg, Sparta issued a distress call on Friday which was picked up by a Norwegian rescue co-ordination centre and passed on to RCCNZ.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Chris Wilson said crew had been pumping water from the hold overnight and moving cargo around the boat to stabilise it.

“They've made good progress - the vessel is certainly in a safer position than it was yesterday. The crew which left the vessel yesterday as a precautionary measure are now back on board, which is good. With Sparta now more stable, the vessel is the safest place for them” said Ms Wilson.

Ms Wilson said the crew was also working on patches which they will attach to the hole in the hull if they can lighten the vessel enough to correct the list.

Initial efforts to contact Sparta directly were unsuccessful but Sparta's sister ship, Chiyo Maru No. 3, relayed a Mayday call to the rescue centre about 90 minutes later and confirmed Sparta was taking on water.

The crew faces several days wait for rescue, as three ships making their way towards Sparta are being severely hampered by heavy sea ice.

The weather in the area currently is calm and about 3 degrees.

Categories: Fisheries, International.

Top Comments

Disclaimer & comment rules
  • geo

    do the Royal New Zealand air forces have C-130 Hercules ??

    Dec 17th, 2011 - 10:56 am 0
  • Frank

    Yes, next question.......

    Dec 17th, 2011 - 11:18 am 0
  • geo

    however the rescued Russian seamen will be interrogated by
    Crown Prosecutors ,at her Majesty's courts.

    Dec 17th, 2011 - 11:46 am 0
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