SHARE
COPY LINK

PANAMA

Last-ditch bid to save France-bound stricken ship succeeds

Maritime experts said the final attempt to tow a tilting uncrewed cargo ship and stop it from crashing into France's picturesque Atlantic coast was a success thanks to calmer seas.

Last-ditch bid to save France-bound stricken ship succeeds
Modern Express is shown here lurching dangerously to one side. Photo: French Navy

Maritime experts on Monday successfully managed to tow a stricken cargo ship away from France and prevent it from
crashing into the country's picturesque Atlantic coast.

Local maritime authorities said a Spanish tugboat had successfully been connected to the ship, which is tilting heavily, “and managed to pivot it, point it towards the open sea and begin towing it.”

The Panamanian-registered Modern Express was only 44 kilometres (27 miles) from the French coast when authorities launched a final bid to attach a tow line and stop it from hitting the coast.

Experts from Dutch company SMIT Salvage which specialises in helping ships in distress were dramatically lowered by helicopter onto the vessel as it tilted at 40 to 50 degrees while buffeted by large waves.

The ship's crew sent a distress signal last Tuesday after the vessel listed strongly to one side, probably due to its cargo coming loose in the hull.

The 22 crew were evacuated by helicopter as they clung to the ship.

Three earlier efforts to attach the tow line failed, with the cable snapping on Saturday due to the movement of the vessels in the rough seas.

“The difficulty is a combination of several things: the wind, the swell and the angle of the boat which is like climbing a mountain, but which is moving,” a spokesperson for Smit Salvage told AFP over the weekend.

Authorities said earlier that if the vessel could be towed, it would likely be taken to a port on the northern coast of Spain.

The Modern Express was carrying diggers and 3,600 tonnes of timber from Gabon in west Africa to the port of Le Havre in Normandy.

If the towing operation failed, the Modern Express would likely have crashed onto the coastline of the Bay of Arcachon, where it would have been dismantled or cut up.

With around 300 tonnes of fuel in its tanks, French authorities said there was a limited risk of pollution in the event of a crash.

However a clean-up vessel was sent to the scene just in case.

 

The French coastline was hit hard in 2002 by the sinking of the Bahamian-flagged oil tanker the Prestige off the coast of Spain, which was carrying 77,000 tonnes of fuel.

The fuel polluted some 1,000 kilometres of French and Spanish coastline.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

PHILIPPINES

France sells navy ship to Philippines for €6m

The Philippines is purchasing a surplus French Navy vessel to boost its forces in the South China Sea where it has an ongoing territorial dispute with China.

France sells navy ship to Philippines for €6m
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) shakes hands with Philippines' Vice-President Jejomar Binay. Photo: AFP/Thomas Samson

The 26-year-old "La Tapageuse" vessel is likely to be the first of several French ships that will be acquired by the Philippine coastguard as it contends with increasingly assertive Chinese forces.

The 54.8-metre (180-foot) patrol ship will cost six million Euros ($7.97 million) and is due to arrive in the country by April next year, a coastguard statement said.

The ship, which is armed with two cannon and two machine-guns, was inspected before acquisition and is good for 20 more years of service, the coastguard said.

"This French vessel is multi-functional and it would be a major contribution to our fleet, particularly in our search and rescue operations," coastguard chief Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena was quoted as saying in the statement.

The Philippines is also "finalising" with the French government the purchase of four brand-new 24-metre and one 82-metre multipurpose vessels, Isorena said.

These new ships would arrive in the first quarter of 2015, the statement added, without specifying their cost.

Isorena also recalled that the Philippine coastguard was already set to acquire 10 multi-role patrol boats under an aid programme with Japan.

The announcement came as a second-hand US Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippine Navy sailed into the country's waters, where it will also help
in patrolling the South China Sea.

Tensions have risen in recent years over China's increasingly-forceful claims to almost all of the South China Sea, even up to the coast of its neighbours like the Philippines.

These tensions have worsened since Chinese government vessels seized the Scarborough Shoal, a South China Sea outcrop just 230 kilometres (140 miles)
east of the main Philippine island of Luzon, last year.

The Philippines has also complained about the presence of Chinese navy vessels near the Manila-controlled Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines has one of the most poorly-equipped militaries in the region and has been trying to beef up its armed forces in the face of the maritime disputes
 

SHOW COMMENTS