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Could this happen off Ireland?

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  • Could this happen off Ireland?

    Nearly two dozen crew members were hoisted to safety in rescue helicopters late Monday night from a giant car-carrying ship that had listed onto its side in the North Pacific Ocean, according to the Alaska Air National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard.

    The 23 crew members of the Cougar Ace, wearing red survival suits, perched on a wall of the ship's superstructure in choppy seas as two Air Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and a Coast Guard helicopter lowered slings and pulled them to safety. The rescue operation began shortly after 9 p.m. and was completed by about 10 p.m.

    "They did pack them in, as many as they humanly could, into all three helicopters," said Maj. Mike Haller of the Air National Guard. "They did it one at a time, and quickly."

    The helicopters then headed for Adak, about 230 miles away.

    The Singapore-registered Cougar Ace, carrying nearly 5,000 vehicles, had sent out an SOS Sunday at 11:09 p.m. The 654-foot vessel had begun to list and was taking on water, according to the Coast Guard. By midafternoon Monday, the Coast Guard reported that the ship was listing to 90 degrees, almost flat on its side in the sea.

    As the rescue commenced, the seas were at 10 feet with 30-knot winds. Haller said chopper crews described those conditions as "very sporty."

    "The fact you are 15 stories up in the air bobbing up and down is challenging for everybody on board," Haller had said earlier in the day.

    Coincidentally, the Coast Guard, state environmental officials and other experts in shipping and safety are meeting this week in Anchorage to figure out how to better respond to -- and prevent -- disasters on the maritime super-highway between Asia and the West Coast.

    Neither the Coast Guard nor the ship's owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines of Japan, could say Monday what had caused the Cougar Ace to turn on its side.

    "We are still attempting to sort that out," said Greg Beuerman, a New Orleans-based spokesman for the company. "Our primary interest is in the health and safety of the crew." Crew members are from the Philippines, Singapore and perhaps other countries, he said.

    The crew couldn't do anything more to try to stabilize or right the boat and needed to abandon it, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Eric J. Chandler. One crew member suffered a broken leg; that was the only significant injury reported.

    Haller said the person with the broken leg was expected to be flown to an Anchorage hospital. The rest of the crew would be flown to Kodiak, the Coast Guard said.

    The ship left Japan last week and had been scheduled to arrive Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, Beuerman said.

    Rescue efforts were hampered Monday by choppy seas with swells of 8 to 10 feet, 35 mph winds and blowing rain that periodically cut visibility to just a few miles.

    Rescuers dropped life boats from a C-130, but the crew couldn't get to them.

    Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Todd Lightle co-piloted the C-130 that left Kodiak around 1:15 a.m. Monday. It was cloudy and dark when the plane got to the ship about 5:40 a.m., he said.

    "All I could see was a big gray blob on the surface," Lightle said. "We couldn't even see it until we were almost on top of it."

    The C-130 dropped three life rafts, he said, but "the vessel drifted right over the top of them." They tried to drop a fourth raft directly on board to give the crew something to hang on to if the ship went down. But it also dropped in the water, and the crew couldn't scramble down the steeply sloping vessel to get to it, he said.

    It was "an awful situation," Lightle said.

    Then, the Alaska Air National Guard sent two Pave Hawk helicopters from its base in Anchorage along with two HC-130 rescue tankers to refuel them midair. The Guard also sent another C-130 with extra rescue gear. The Coast Guard also sent a helicopter, which had to stop and refuel along the way.

    A bulk carrier ship, the Ikan Juara, was standing by to assist the Cougar Ace crew, the Coast Guard said. Earlier, the Ikan Juara's crew tried to tie on to the car carrier, but that was too treacherous, Haller said.

    The clinic and community center in Adak prepared hours before the rescue to receive the Cougar Ace's crew. Cots, blankets, food, oxygen tanks and a hypothermia unit were readied in case anyone went into the water.

    Meanwhile, the ship appeared to stabilize on its side and might not sink, according to the Coast Guard and the ship's owner.

    "There is an ongoing discussion of salvage versus abandonment," Beuerman said.

    The ship is carrying 430 metric tons of fuel oil and 112 metric tons of diesel, according to the Coast Guard. Observers could see a sheen spreading two miles from the ship, but a small amount of fuel could have leaked out simply from the vessel being on its side, the Coast Guard said. It did not appear the fuel tanks had ruptured.

    The ship is in international waters, but if it were to sink or break apart, pollution would probably drift into U.S. waters, so the Coast Guard will monitor the owner's actions to make sure "an environmental catastrophe doesn't occur," Chandler said.

    In Anchorage, the events put an edge on a workshop being held Monday and again today to assess safety in Aleutian ports and waterways.

    "It will be the issue again and again with these large vessels going through U.S. and even Alaska waters," said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor in the marine advisory program who has called for a risk assessment in the Aleutians for years.

    The workshop's focus is mainly on safety in the Aleutians, but any improvements would extend to the ship traffic farther south, where the Cougar Ace ran into trouble, said Leslie Pearson, spill response program manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

    Solutions include better tracking of vessels to help safety officials see problems early as well as placement of powerful tugboats in strategic spots to respond to disasters, Steiner said.

    Issues may go beyond that to problems such as crew fatigue, said the Coast Guard's prevention chief in Alaska, Capt. Steve Hudson. And crews also may need more familiarization with Alaska waterways, he said.

    The Cougar Ace's owner, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, is a large, Japan-based marine transportation company with car carriers, bulk carriers, tankers, ferries and cruise ships, according to the company Web site.

    'Should we have Emergency Towing Vessels in the Navy stationed in Rosslare, Berehaven, Blacksod & the Swilly for something like this?'

    MOD:Larger Images edited to links please click on links to view.
    Last edited by Dogwatch; 30 July 2006, 18:22.

  • #2
    Cougar Ace off UK in 2003

    Photo of the stricken vessel operating off Europe in 2003.


    • #3
      Some rather large images there, especially the third and fourth......

      I seem to remember (hearing about, since I wasn't alive when it happened) something similar happening the day before I was born.


      • #4
        We should have had emergency towing vessels for many years, if not two.. The UK has 2, one on the north coast and one on the south, available all year round. If one is out of service for repairs or refit, another one is leased to cover the area. When not involved in rescue work, there is enough commercial work to keep them busy. A 150 tonne bollard pull is whats required, but hey, shur that sort of thing never happens here....since when has ireland been surrounded by water, don't we get all our freight by road in small trucks that don't clog up the city centres for commuters. Right bertie?

        Vessels listing is caused by cargo not being correctly secured during heavy seas. It shouldn't happen, but it does. This is quite an extreme case of course. I can only assume that the vessel was unloaded incorrectly causing most of its cargo weight to be on the upper decks, above the C/g? Once its destabilised in this way, things can only get worse. The only reason the Herald of free enterprise didn't go belly up is that she rolled onto a sandbank. The only reason the Celtic lee didnt capsize completely is all the spare tyres on the lee bottom...

        Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Barry
          Some rather large images there, especially the third and fourth......

          I seem to remember (hearing about, since I wasn't alive when it happened) something similar happening the day before I was born.
          That may have been the Herald of free enterprise

          Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


          • #6
            Cougar Ace in Antwerp in May 2006

            So this incompetent crew have passed close to Ireland


            'According to Mazda, 60% of the cars aboard are Mazda3s, and 30% are CX-7 SUVs. The Associated Press reports that the Cougar Ace tipped after her ballast was adjusted in the open sea. The resulting imbalance sent her over into the 60-degree list she is currently experiencing. As seen in the US Coast Guard photo above, her keel, rudder, and propeller are all out of the water.'

            A video clip of the crew being airlifted, we could do with some of these long range helos also

            Last edited by Dogwatch; 30 July 2006, 18:39.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Goldie fish
              That may have been the Herald of free enterprise


              • #8
                Didnt something similar happen in the english chanel a few tears back. The ship was carrying a cargo of mercs, b.m.w.'s and volvos mostly?


                • #9
                  Yes. A car carrier called 'tricolour' I think.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bitter Boy
                    Yes. A car carrier called 'tricolour' I think.

                    14 Dec 2002, the 'Tricolor' was struck by the cargo vessel 'Kariba', the wreck of the Tricolor was struck a few days later by another ship, the 'Vicky'

                    Last edited by Dogwatch; 1 August 2006, 01:42.


                    • #11
                      I can't see this been caused by the cargo shifting in bad weather, they don't waste an inch on the car decks, ie the cars are very close to each other so the drivers park, get out , and another car is parked inches away, the cars are secured fore and aft, it's called a block stow.
                      Neither can I see ballast transfer being the cause, it would take hours to pump enough ballast from Stbd. to Port to cause a big vessel to go over, also car carriers are very succeptable to wind because of their high sides,they take great care to get the stablity calculations right the instructions to the ships Masters are to hove to if the wind exceers a certain figure.
                      Still it had to be something! Good work Dogwatch keep us posted.


                      • #12
                        Didn't Ireland receive recently three AB 139s for search and rescue tasks? A few more helicopters on a few OPVs would help extend the range for rescue work. At least a helicopter deck on a few OPVs without a hangar could allow for the refueling of the helicopters at sea.


                        • #13
                          Air Corps AB139s while equipped with winches will not be used in the SAR role. SAR here is contracted by the Coastguard service to a Private company(who do it quite well too) with Sikorsky S61. The AB139(or AW139) will primaraly be used as a troop carrying utility heli.

                          It remains to be seen if they will find their way onto a helideck, but it is accepted that even without a heli to land on it, a helideck is a useful space aboard ship.

                          Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


                          • #14
                            On a similar theme, an Irish Ferries vessel has been taken out of service for repair. Heard on the news this evening. It apparently struck a submerged object just out of Holyhead, which they are speculating to be a whale.

                            The comment was made by a spokesman that it was an unusual occurence for a ship to collide with a whale in these waters.

                            Brough to mind all the incidents a few years ago involving submarines
                            in the Irish Sea colliding with/towing fishing trawlers...
                            Last edited by Truck Driver; 1 August 2006, 23:40.
                            "Well, stone me! We've had cocaine, bribery and Arsenal scoring two goals at home. But just when you thought there were truly no surprises left in football, Vinnie Jones turns out to be an international player!" (Jimmy Greaves)!"


                            • #15
                              Update on Cougar Ace

                              USCG Cutter Rush standing off the vessel

                              Salvage Tug 'Emma Foss' arriving on scene.

                              Salvage personnel boarding the Cougar Ace.