LONDON, December 21 (Itar-Tass) — The crew of the Russian trawler Sparta that got holed in the Ross Sea near Antarctica has managed to fully level the ship – its 13-degree lurch has been removed, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) told Itar-Tass on Wednesday. Meanwhile, another plane with the equipment to repair the ship’s body has flown to the emergency area.
According to the rescue service, “The vessel was now back on an even keel and the crew only needed to resume pumping occasionally to keep ahead of the water ingress.”
It also reported that a “Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF) aircraft carrying pumps, patches and other equipment is now on its way to help the crew of the stricken vessel Sparta in the Ross Sea.”
“Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue mission coordinator John Dickson said the aircraft had departed Christchurch at0 9.00 a.m., local time, Wednesday (about midnight, Moscow time) and was estimated to arrive at the Sparta’s position about 16:00 p.m. NZDT (07:00 MSK).” “The aircraft crew would then undertake trial runs before dropping the equipment onto the ice next to the stricken vessel.”
Mr Dickson said the vessel was now back on an even keel and the crew only needed to resume pumping occasionally to keep ahead of the water ingress. RCCNZ was still continuing to monitor the situation, including the weather conditions and the progress of various nearby vessels that have been tasked to assist, according to the RCCNZ.
“Currently the Norwegian vessel Seljavaer is heading away from the Sparta as it attempts to navigate a way around the heavy ice, while the Sparta’s sister ship, the Chiyo Maru no. 3, is approximately still 100nm (185 km) away but it is not ice strengthened and its approach is being slowed as it navigates the ice pack. The ice-strengthened polar research vessel Araon is en-route and estimated to arrive in the area on 26 December.”
RCCNZ launched the rescue mission after the Sparta issued a distress call around 3am last Friday (16 December) from a position next to the Antarctic ice shelf, in the Ross Sea, about 2000 nautical miles (3704 kilometres) south east of New Zealand. The 48m vessel, with 32 crew on board, has a 30cm hole in the side which is 1.5m below the water line. Mr Dickson said weather in the area remained reasonably good, with occasional snow showers and cloud, but was forecast to worsen tomorrow.
New Zealand’s rescuers said earlier that the situation onboard the Sparta was stable. The crew made up of 15 Russians, 16 New Zealand’s citizens and a Ukrainian citizen, which are on duty in turn, were pumping the water from the hull by two pumps. The minimum task for the crew is to keep the trawler floating and to prevent the list from developing. The maximum task to level and ease the load onboard the Sparta so that the hole turned out to be higher the water level to stop the water flooding in the hull and to make a full-fledged repairs possible as long as it is ever probable in such conditions. The vessel staying nearby would have eased up the task, as the Sparta crew could have pumped some fuel from the reserves to this vessel to reduce the water draught of the trawler. The fuel dumping in the sea remains a measure of last resort, because this measure can trigger an ecological disaster in an unpolluted area of the Antarctic, where the natural balance of wild species is quite fragile all the same.