Stranded Russian Vessel tip of the Ice Berg

I feel for the 32 crew of the Russian Fishing Vessel Sparta. After hitting an iceberg they’ve been stranded beside their vessel in the middle of the Ross Sea. It’s not a great situation in anyone’s books and I sincerely hope their boat is repaired and they are returned safely to their families. There’s a hole about the size of an A4 a metre and a half below waterline.

Photo USAF

This is by no means the first time that a fishing vessel has got into difficultyin the Ross Sea  and brings home how dangerous this fishery is. An Olympic style fishery (a race until the quota is caught) is highly competitive, boats want to catch as much as they can, as quickly as they can and the highly competitive nature of fishing undoubtedly pushes crews and their vessels into marginal areas. I have seen these boats departing for the Ross Sea from New Zealand and they do not fill you with confidence.

While the stranding of these vessel brings this fishery in the Ross Sea to media attention and raises questions about the potential for further environmental disasters, what is often not asked in the heat of the moment is the simple question – why are these boats here in the first place? The answer would reveal another impending disaster  – this one far more insidious and far reaching, it is the destruction of the last near intact marine ecosystem on Earth.

Rescue Mission Coordinator Neville Blakemore said the crew was continuing to pump water from the ship using the on-board pumping equipment and one that was delivered yesterday by the NZ Airforce.

“They are keeping ahead of the water ingress using two pumps,” Mr Blakemore said. “But they are having difficulty in trying to fix a patch to the damaged part of the hull because they need to stop one of the pumps to do this, and then the water level creeps up again.” Mr Blakemore said Sparta’s stability was currently the number one priority for the rescue operation.

Check out TVNZ’s story here.

All the very best to those involved in the repair work and rescue, it’s in all out interests that we get this ship repaired and back home as soon as possible – hopefully to never return.

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