SIMFEROPOL, March 13 (Itar-Tass) — The Maltese-flagged Ivan Vikulov dry cargo ship, which had been wandering unmanned in the ice fields of the Sea of Azov for a month with 140 tonnes of fuel aboard, was towed to the Kerch seaport, the Ukrainian maritime rescue center told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
“The port administration is waiting for the ship owner to arrive and to make a decision on the ship repairs,” it said.
The Russian-crewed ship was sailing from Algeria to Rostov-on-Don. It was trapped in the ice in the Azov Sea, 50 kilometers away from the Crimean coastline, on January 28 amid severe frosts. An explosion and a fire in the ship’s deck structure occurred on February 5. Russian and Ukrainian rescuers responded to the May Day signal. They put out the fire and evacuated ten crewmembers by helicopter to Simferopol. The captain and four sailors were taken to the Kavkaz port later onboard the Captain Moshkin icebreaker.
There is another unmanned ship drifting in the sea – the Panama-flagged Alaka-1, the center said. “The ship is weather bitten and has no power supply; it endangers shipping in the Sea of Azov. It is impossible to predict how the ship moves, so all captains sailing in that area have been warned about a possible collision, especially in the night hours,” it said.
The Alaka-1 dry cargo ship traveling to Rostov-on-Don sent the May Day signal on February 7. “The same as many ships ice trapped in the Sea of Azov – and there were hundreds of such – this dry cargo ship dared to go northward from the Kerch Strait on January 28 but the ice prevented its progress,” the Berdyansk emergency situations department said. The hull was damaged and the vessel started leaking. It listed by more than ten degrees. Contact with the crew of Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Turks and Georgians was lost. In the end, rescuers picked up the sailors from an ice block and brought them to Simferopol by a helicopter of the Ukrainian Emergency Situations Ministry.
Rescuers call a highly risky operation the towing of the 88-meter-long ship. It cannot be traced with navigators because its electronic system is down and it is unknown whether the ship has sunken or continues its drift. The owner said he wanted to find the ship and to repair it.