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25 July 1999 – Johannesburg, South Africa
South African marine officials today suspended their air search for 25 crew members of trawler (m fish factory Palli Hja Mariannu, 1,024 gt, built 1969) which sank last night off the Eastern Cape coast, killing at least three. The search will resume at first light on Monday, but the chances of finding the 25 alive are "very slim" with each hour they stay in the freezing Indian Ocean waters, said Lieutenant-Colonel Johann Carstens of the Maritime Rescue Centre in Cape Town. Earlier today, rescue helicopters plucked nine survivors from a dinghy and recovered three bodies. Carstens said the survivors had told of jumping overboard when the 1,000 tonne Cape Town registered vessel began sinking. "It seems like most of them had emergency gear but whether they will last in the cold water, we don't know," he said. The vessel's owner, Barney Rose, said all 37 crewmen were South Africans. The vessel had been out at sea since Friday. The Maritime Rescue Centre's Major Peter Redelinghuys said four helicopters had been sent out early today after a distress signal was received last night. The South African Maritime Safety Authority said it was talking to the survivors to determine the cause of the accident.
25 July 1999 – Search for missing crewmen, with the use of aircraft, etc, is continuing. So far only empty life-rafts, some wreckage and the EPIRB beacon have been found.
27 July 1999 – As many as 28 people have died in the sinking of m fish factory Palli Hja Mariannu. Authorities say today that nine people were found alive near the site of the mishap and three bodies have been recovered but there is no sign of the other 25 crew members. Rescue teams have been conducting a search with both aircraft and surface ships trying to find additional survivors. The vessel had four life rafts. Eight crewmen were found in one life raft and two rafts were found empty by rescue helicopters. The fourth raft has not yet been located. Initial interviews with crew members say the vessel sank quickly, perhaps trapping people beneath decks as it went down. The South African Maritime Safety Authority has opened an investigation into the sinking.
27 July 1999 – South Africa's maritime services said today it had halted a search for 26 crew still missing from m fish factory Palli Hja Mariannu which sank off the Eastern Cape coast on Saturday night. Major Piet Paxton of the Cape Town-based Maritime Rescue Centre's joint task force said: "We called off the search because the weather is not favourable and we are confident that the area we searched yesterday was the right area. Nothing has been found so far, no debris, nobody." A spokesman for Iyethu Fishing Company, a subsidiary of the Pioneer Group which operated the vessel, said the prospects of finding more crew alive were dim. It was not yet known why the vessel went down so quickly in relatively calm winter seas. Media reports suggested she had been hit by a freak wave. A maritime search and rescue mission has been combing a 200 square km area offshore in the Indian Ocean since Sunday, but officials said poor visibility and lack of any further recoveries made them decide to abandon the search.
9 August 1999 – Jakarta, Indonesia
Ten people were killed and several others injured when m tanker Stephame XVIII (1,377 gt, built 1995), Tanjung Uhan for Pekanbaru, carrying gasoline, blew up after colliding with a vessel and a barge in a Sumatran river, Indonesian shipping officials and police said today. The collision happened on the Siak river yesterday evening in Perawang, about 80km south of Peckanbaru. "It is still unclear why the collision happened but witnesses said that the vessel had been navigating too close to the river coast when she hit a boarded ship," Wendri, an official from shipping company PT Surya Dumai, said. The vessel exploded after hitting a barge on the other side of the river, Wendri said. He added that gasoline spilled from the vessel into the river and caught fire, setting another vessel alight. "A wooden vessel carrying fertiliser caught fire," Wendri said, adding that the master of that vessel was still missing. Local police confirmed the death toll and added that another wooden vessel sank this morning after colliding with another barge. "It was due to early morning fog," First Lieutenant Fidal Me, police chief for Siak sub-district said, adding that there were no casualties in the collision. He added that the rescue team had put out the fire by this morning but river traffic was still halted.
9 August 1999 – Confirmed that ten crew died and two missing, with 1,200 metric tons premium oil spilled into river.
11 August 1999 – A shipping company and police today blamed thick haze from forest and scrub fires in Indonesia's Sumatera island for the collision between m tanker Stephanie XVIII and tank barge Komodo which left ten people dead. "Because of the smoke from the fires, the Siak River where the accident took place was covered by haze," said a staff member of the shipping company PT Surya Dumai, operators of the Stephanie XVIII. The spokesman said the accident took place shortly after dusk on Sunday (August 8) some 60km upriver in the Siak district. "The low visibility made the Stephanie XVIII sail too close to the banks, hitting a barge carrying wood," he said. He said that by today, visibility in the area remained poor. Lt-Col Rukman of the Riau provincial police said he also believed that thick foggy haze had led to the accident. The gasoline-carrying StephanieXVIII collided with the Komodo, carrying timber, and then with a tug in the Perawang area in Siak district. The state Antara news agency put the death toll at 12. It said three bodies were found on Sunday evening and another nine, believed to be the tanker's crew, were found in the charred wreckage of the vessel yesterday. The twin collisions tore open the side of the vessel and the gasoline leaking from the tanker caught fire from a storm lamp, Rukman said. It also burned another small vessel which was berthed at a nearby pier. Both police and the shipping company confirmed that seven tanker crew members were saved.
21 June 1999 – Oregon coast, United States
A barge that is key to taking apart the remaining section of beached m wood-chip carrier New Carissa is now on the eastern side of the Panama Canal. Salvage crews are planning to remove the vessel's stern from the Oregon coast in September, but there is still plenty of work to do in the next few months. Bill Milwee, who heads the salvage operation, says divers will take a look around the submerged stern today. They will start the patching operation needed to make the engine room watertight so it can be floated out of Coos Bay.
You will be able to see parts of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa in a museum. The Columbia River Maritime Museum has announced it has acquired parts of the vessel for display in Astoria. On display will be the name plate, the name board and port and starboard running lights. Meanwhile, divers are still working around the wreckage of the stern section of the vessel on the beach near Coos Bay. They will decide if the wreckage can be refloated and sent to sea or if it must be cut up and removed from the beach. Present plans call for refloating as early as September, if it proves to be seaworthy.
1 July 1999 – Divers have finally got on board the wreckage of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa. They hope to see if the stern section can be refloated and taken to sea for disposal. The six member dive team will spend several days looking for holes in the hull and seeing if they can be patched. If she cannot be floated, she will be cut up on the beach and hauled away.
3 July 1999 – Divers have found several holes and large cracks in the engine-room in the stern of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa and are continuing to dredge sand, looking for more damage. The operation could take as long as a week, according to Bill Milwee, representative for the ship's owners. "It's a bit-by-bit process," he said. "We are still finding damage. We knew there were some holes, and holes are patchable." While the cracks and holes could be patched, salvors must decide if repairing the damage is justified, Milwee added. Divers have been using a vacuum device to remove nearly 12 feet of sand from the engine-room, he said. If the damage is too extensive, the salvage crew will disassemble the remains of New Carissa where she lies. There is a 70 per cent chance that salvage crews will be able to refloat the engine-room, according to Mick Leitz, owner of Fred Devine Diving and Salvage of Portland, one of the companies that were awarded the salvage contract. Salvage crews have removed the deckhouse of the stern, cutting, collecting and removing 250 tons of steel, three 85-gallon drums of oiled absorbent pads and 32 tons of debris.
21 July 1999 – As more fresh oil washed onto the beach near Coos Bay, salvage officials said yesterday that it could be the weekend before salvage crews can begin removing the beached stern section of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa. A heavy wave of tar balls washed ashore near the vessel yesterday, representatives of the ship's owners said. Clean-up crews found more than 200 tar balls per square yard washing up just south of the stern section. In recent momhs, concentrations of six to ten tar balls per square yard have been reported. It was the second heavy oiling along the southern Oregon coast in three days. Neither incident appears to be linked to the vessel, officials said. "It doesn't smell like the stuff that's coming off the ship," said Jack Gallagher, deputy on-scene commander for the ship's owners, Taiheiyo Kaiun Co. Ltd of Japan. "We've checked with the ship. There's been no activity out there that they feel has been caused by the ship." On Sunday, clean-up crews discovered hundreds of tar balls, some fist-sized and thin as pancakes, others the size of a pencil point, washed ashore 50-60 miles north of Coos Bay. The largest amounts hit the coast south of the Siltcoos River and in the Baker Beach area. US Coast Guard officials are "fingerprinting" the oil but said they doubted that it came from New Carissa. "We really don't have any vessels or potential sources that we can match as the cause," said Loren Garner, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's on-scene commander. Still, the new oilings have fish and wildlife officials concerned about the effects on snowy plovers nesting nearby. The species is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Windblown sand has buried some of the oil, which could resurface as the birds forage. Federal and state wildlife officials met with the Coast Guard yesterday to ensure that the beaches were cleaned up to prevent plovers from becoming oiled. One oiled adult bird has died and two others are missing, but officials are optimistic because the nesting sites have produced as many chicks as hatched last year. Meanwhile, divers continued to pump sand from the beached stern in preparation to refloating it. Though high winds and waves have hampered their work, salvage workers still think they can patch all the holes they have found in the vessel. The plan is to remove the stern's smokestack, hopper and other on-deck equipment, cut away a remaining cargo hold, refloat the stern and tow it to sea for burial in deep water. "It's going a lot slower than I expected, there's no question about it," said Mick Leitz, president of Fred Devine Diving and Salvage, one of two companies contracted to remove the stern. "We're pumping the same sand two or three times, I think." On Monday, a 250-foot derrick barge and tug completed the job of rescuing a beached fishing vessel in Newport. Leitz said workers would need several days preparing the barge in Newport and Coos Bay before beginning work on the stern.
22 July 1999 – As crews gear up to remove the stern section of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa from the beach near Coos Bay, the US Coast Guard has proposed dissolving the three-member team overseeing the salvage effort, saying its work no longer requires a full-time Unified Command. Coast Guard officials have sent a proposal for disbanding the Unified Command to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Bill Milwee, a representative of the ship's owners. The Coast Guard, the state and the responsible party make up the Unified Command. Reaction to the proposal was met with caution and confusion. State officials said they doubted that any decision would alter federal and state oversight of the wreck removal. Crews are about to begin cutting off the vessel's remaining cargo hold and refloating the stern for sinking at sea. But representatives of the owners want the Coast Guard to keep the command structure intact. "The co-operation and coordination we've had between the state will be much more difficult [without it]," said Jack Gallagher, president of Gallagher Marine Systems, which represents the ship's insurer. One DEQ official said the proposal appeared to be another move in the chess game between the Coast Guard and the ship's owners over who pays for removing the stern section. The work is projected to cost $10 million to $15 million. "They're all looking down the road at how this will be settled either in court or out of court," said Paul Slyman, DEQ's environmental clean-up program manager. "It's all because of that trust fund." The $1 billion federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is managed by the Coast Guard and financed by a 5-cents-a-barrel tax on all domestically produced or imported oil. Its chief purpose is to pay for oil-spill responses that pose "substantial threats" to the environment. Representatives of the ship's owners, Taiheiyo Kaiun Co. Ltd, Japan, said they have reached the limit of the $22 million pollution liability insurance they are required to have under federal law. Coast Guard Captain James Spitzer, who in June replaced Captain Mike Nail as the federal on-scene commander at Coos Bay, was out of town this week and could not be reached for comment. His deputy commander, Lt Cmdr Ed Parsons, said protecting the trust fund was not the pdmary motive for dissolving the Unified Command. "What we care about is whether we're doing the right thing within the realm of our authority," Parsons said. He acknowledged that the Coast Guard wanted to make sure it was not wasting money from the federal trust fund. Already, officials have claimed more than $6.4 million against the fund to pay for the federal agencies' response. In reality, the ship's insurer, Britannia Steamship Insurance, has plenty of protection. The 14 largest maritime insurers in the world, including Britannia, belong to the International Group of P&I Clubs, a pool providing a second layer of insurance for wreck removal and oil pollution claims. Its oil-pollution limit is $500 million. Nonetheless, moves to tap the federal oil spill fund began only 12 days after the bow section was towed to sea and sunk in early March.
Milwee, speaking for the ship's owners, proposed that the trust fund pay for the stern removal, according to notes kept by the state's on-scene commander, Mike Szerlog. But in May, Coast Guard officials said they had eliminated any "substantial threat" of pollution by draining and pumping 4,000 gallons of oil. And a salvage company removing the stern section agreed there no longer was a threat of oil leaks. In a letter to Milwee in June, J. Arnold Witte, president of Donjon Marine of Hillsdale, NJ, wrote that "the substantial threat to the environment has been abated" on board the stern section. But in a letter to Witte a week later, Milwee disagreed. He said the stern continued to leak oil and still posed a threat to the environment. "The only way to stop these discharges and to eliminate this threat is by removal of the stern section," he wrote.
8 July 1999 – West coast of Sweden
Following received from Stockholm MRCC, timed 02.20, UTC: Ro-ro m ferry Prinsesse Ragnhild, LJOF (35,438 gt, built 1981), with 1,339 persons on board, of which 1,167 are passengers, has an uncontrollable fire in her engine-room in lat. 57 39N, long. 11 19E. Passengers are being transferred to vessels in the area. (Note Prinsesse Ragnhild operates between Oslo and Kiel.)
Nordic rescue authorities were battling early today to evacuate 1,167 passengers and 172 crew from ro-ro m ferry Prinsesse Ragnhild on fire off Sweden's west coast, Swedish news agency TT said. Emergency crews said the fire broke out in the machine-room of Prinsesse Ragnhild while on route between Kiel and Oslo shortly after 02.00, local time, and it was burning out of control. No injuries had yet been reported. About ten rescue helicopters from Sweden, Norway and Denmark were leading the evacuation and fighting the blaze. Up to 20 commercial vessels and fishing vessels were assisting in the evacuation west of Vinga about 10kms from Gothenburg. "The fire is burning in the machine-room and, according to my information, the blaze is now out of control," the Maritime Rescue Service in Gothenburg told TT. "But so far we have no information that anyone is injured."
Following received from Gothenburg MRCC, timed 05.05, UTC: Ro-ro m ferry Prinsesse Ragnhild: The fire is now out. All passengers have been taken off the vessel and most of the crew remain on board. Tugs have been ordered.
8 July 1999 – More than 1,300 people have been rescued from a ferry that caught fire while travelling between Germany and Norway in the North Sea. Authorities say there have been no serious injuries and the passengers and crew were transferred to merchant vessels that came alongside the ferry. Ro-ro m ferry Prinsesse Ragnhild reportedly had a fire in the machine-room in the early hours of this morning. The vessel, owned by the Color Line, was about halfway between Kiel, Germany, and Oslo, Norway, when the pre-dawn fire broke out in the engine-room. Company officials say it took about four hours to bring the fire under control. There are media reports that several passengers suffered slight cases of smoke inhalation. The company said there were 1,167 passengers and 172 crew aboard the boat at the time of the fire.
Eight helicopters and some 20 other smaller vessels are also reported to have assisted in the passenger evacuation. The evacuation was straightforward as fortunately the weather in the area was calm. Passengers reported that the alarm was sounded and crews knocked on cabin doors and instructed all passengers to assemble on decks, with lifejackets on. Once assembled, full information on evacuation procedures was given and the crew launched the lifeboats, assisting passengers into them. The evacuation started around 03.00 hrs and was completed around 05.15 hrs. The crew could not extinguish the fire and it was only after firemen from Gothenburg attended that it was possible to get the blaze under control. The fire is now out, but the engine-room has not yet been entered/checked as the heat in that area is still intense.
A 73-year-old Norwegian women who suffered heart problems on board ro-ro m ferry Prinsesse Ragnhild, that caught fire off the Swedish coast early today, has died in hospital, Swedish police said. The woman and her husband were among passengers who had to be evacuated from the vessel after a fire broke out in the engine-room shortly after 02.00 hrs.