Update: Sparta’s Condition Precarious with Help Days Away

On Friday we posted about the Russian fishing vessel, Sparta, which was in danger of sinking off the Ross Ice shelf in Antarctica.  The ship with a crew of 32 had been holed five feet below the water line and was listing to 13 degrees.  Since then the news has been mixed.  A New Zealand Air Force Hercules flew over the Sparta late Saturday and dropped an emergency pump and fuel to help stabilize the ship. The second pump was able to slow the flooding but patches which the crew had placed on the hull  failed.  They are now attempting to re-secure the patches to the hull.

The Sparta’s owners have chartered the RV Aron, a South Korean icebreaker, to aid the stricken ship, but it could take eight days for the Aron to reach the Sparta.  The New Zealand fishing vessel, San Aspiring, gave up an attempt to reach the Sparta due to the ice. The Norwegian vessel Sel Jevaer is only 19 nautical miles away but is  currently blocked in by ice.  Sparta‘s sister ship, Chiyo Maru No. 3 is slowly making its way towards the stricken vessel but is still days away.

Ocean rescue hampered by ice

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2 Responses to Update: Sparta’s Condition Precarious with Help Days Away

  1. The NZAF dropped a pump and FUEL? It is not allowed, by International Law, to transfer fuel above 60° South Latitude or to refuel a vessel in Antarctic Regions. So how does this square away with that? Then there is the fact of the FV Sparta fishing in the area in the first place. Am I missing something here in maritime law which I used to teach at one time.
    Good Watch.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    Very interesting question. From a strictly practical point of view, the sinking of the fishing vessel would be likely to create a larger spill and greater environmental threat from the ship’s bunkers, than would be possible from spilling the light distillates used to operate the portable pump. You know far more about the law than I but the treaty is full of references prohibiting fueling “unless required for essential purposes.” Attempting to keep the fishing vessel afloat seems to fall in this category.

    Whether the Sparta should have been in these waters is also a good question. She wasn’t alone. Three other fishing ships were in the area, including the Norwegian fishing vessel Sel Jevaer which is apparently stuck in the ice less than 20 NM away.