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. Stricken Ship On Collision Course With British Gas Rig

The Murdoch Gas Platform.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
A cargo ship was adrift off the east coast of England Thursday and heading for a collision with a gas platform, sparking a scramble to evacuate those on the rig. The 4,500-tonne Vindo, with nine people on board, had lost engine power in the North Sea and was drifting towards the Murdoch gas platform, nine nautical miles (17 kilometres) away, in 55-knot (100 kilometre per hour) winds.

The ship, carrying 4,200 tonnes of fertiliser, began drifting off the Lincolnshire coast after its engine failed.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said that 20 crew from the platform were being flown off the platform and away from the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged vessel.

No crew had been evacuated from the Vindo, it added.

Michael Mulford, from the Royal Air Force rescue centre at Kinloss in Scotland, told Sky News television: "This is the original white knuckle ride."

He added: "It's down to the lap of the gods. "Much will depend on whether we're lucky enough to get a glancing blow, or several blows.

"The crew on the rig will do everything to shut it down."

Mark Clark, of the Humber Coastguard, said that the ship had put down anchor and slowed its rate of drift, but it was still "too close for comfort" to know if there would be a collision.

"There are standby vessels there...we've put a Mayday signal out into the area for other vessels to come by and assist if need be, but we hope that we've got three hours or so to resolve this situation," he told BBC television.

Clark added that the vessel had broken down at around 1600 GMT and that crew onboard said they hoped to have the equipment fixed within two hours.

earlier related report
Storms Batter British Isles Hopes Fade For Missing Fishermen
Dublin (AFP) Jan 11 - Gale-force winds sunk one Irish trawler and coastguard authorities were searching for a second on Thursday as a storm across the British Isles and the Netherlands disrupted sea and air traffic. Low-lying eastern English counties were put on flood alert, while ferry services were cancelled in the English Channel, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Irish coastguards battled winds of up to 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour in a major air and sea search for the sunken trawler -- the "Pere Charles" -- which went down in heavy seas southeast of Ireland late Wednesday.

By Thursday afternoon, there was still no sign of the five fisherman on board the French-built vessel, and two empty liferafts were found in the area.

"Conditions in the area are horrendous. The winds have been up to storm force 10. They will be gale force all day today," a coastguard spokesman told AFP.

The Irish coastguard also launched an air and sea search off the south coast for a second trawler, the "Honeydew II", after its automatic positioning device failed to report its location for over 18 hours.

Authorities began their search for the Irish vessel and its four-man crew -- one Irishman and three foreigners -- about 19 miles west from where the "Pere Charles" are missing.

A coastguard spokesman said that no position had been received for the trawler since 11.30 pm (2330 GMT) on Wednesday evening and there had been no radio contact.

The storm severely disrupted sea traffic across the English Channel, with departures shut down entirely for several hours between Calais on the French coast and the English port of Dover, while only large ships were using the French port of Dunkirk.

"It will be some hours before the weather situation will significantly improve," a Port of Dover spokesman told AFP at 1700 GMT.

The winds reached storm Force 10 before dawn between 0510 GMT and 0745 GMT, forcing the port's closure, resulting in cancellations and disruption.

Regional traffic control authorities in France forecast a surge in cargo traffic through the Eurotunnel as trucks scheduled to cross the Channel by sea divert to rail instead.

In the Netherlands, the gathering stormfront disrupted air traffic at the Schiphol International airport, one of Europe's busiest.

The number of planes allowed to take off and land was cut back to 50 out of every 70, airport authorities said, according to Dutch news agency ANP.

Later, Schiphol officials said delays were continuing, while a floating crane broke adrift on a freshwater lake in the northwest of the country, and ferry services were disrupted between the Dutch mainland and nearby islands.

Irish coastguards searching for the missing fishermen on the "Pere Charles" said a gas cylinder and life ring have been recovered since the vessel disappeared from radar screens late Wednesday.

Hopes were fading for the men on board, four Irishmen and a Ukrainian, but there was a chance they could have taken to a liferaft, the coastguard spokesman said.

But in an onimous discovery later in the day, two empty liferafts were found in the area where the boat sank, officials said.

Two search and rescue helicopters, two lifeboats, local trawlers and four coastguard shore crews resumed the search at first light, while an Irish naval vessel, a coastguard helicopter and a lifeboat were searching for the "Honeydew II".

Officials said Ireland's Marine Casualty Investigation Board had begun an inquiry into the tragedy. Irish Transport Minister Pat "the Cope" Gallagher, who is responsible for the coastguard, told RTE state radio police and navy divers were on standby to try and locate the sunken trawler when the weather improves.

Meanwhile, a 4,500-tonne cargo ship was adrift off the east coast of England and heading for a collision with a gas platform, sparking a scramble to evacuate those on the rig.

The "Vindo", with nine people on board, lost engine power in the North Sea and was drifting towards the Murdoch gas platform, nine nautical miles (17 kilometres) away, in 55-knot winds (100 kilometres per hour).

Carrying 4,200 tonnes of fertiliser, the ship began drifting off the coast of Lincolnshire when its engine failed.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said that 20 crew from the platform were being flown off the platform and away from the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged vessel.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Fires Fuel Mercury Emissions
Ann Arbor MI (SPX) Jan 11, 2007
Forest fires release more mercury into the atmosphere than previously recognized, a multidisciplinary research project at the University of Michigan suggests. The study, which has implications for forest management and global mercury pollution, was published online today (Jan. 9) in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

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