Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Crews Assess Damage On Navy Ships That Collided

The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex arrived to cheers in San Diego Bay on Thursday, 24 hours after it collided with a refueling tanker in the Pacific when the warship's steering apparently failed. Families of the ship's crew celebrated as the big ship pulled in. Andi Farquhr, wife of a 36-year-old sailor, said her husband called her from the ship and said something bad had happened. She said he told her there was a collision but gave no details. "I'm pretty sure it was scary," Farquhr said. The Wednesday morning accident between the Essex and the oiler USNS Yukon occurred about 120 miles off the coast of Southern California as the Essex was approaching the Yukon to be refueled, said Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the 3rd Fleet. There were no injuries or fuel spills, military officials said. Brown said the steering apparently stopped working on the 844-foot-long Essex, which was carrying 982 crew members on its way to San Diego for scheduled maintenance. It had spent the past 12 years based in Sasebo, Japan, as command ship for the Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 7. The Essex was traveling with a new crew that came aboard for the trip to California. The ship recently underwent a crew swap with another amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard, as part of a standard procedure in the Navy to keep its ships operating. The Essex and Yukon were both able to continue toward San Diego despite the damage, which the Navy said did not compromise their fuel tanks or systems. The Yukon arrived at the Navy base in San Diego after 3 p.m. Wednesday with its crew of 82, including 78 civilian mariners and four military crew members. Brown said the damage was being assessed. He said he couldn't say how fast the ships were moving at the time of the crash because the Navy is still investigating the cause.

The accident occurred as the USS Essex was approaching the USNS Yukon to be refueled.
The standard speed for ships lining up to refuel at sea is about 13 knots, or 15 mph, Brown said. No lines or hoses had been connected because the two vessels were just approaching each other. The ships likely just bounced off each other, said maritime safety consultant James W. Allen. Even so, he said, with massive ships, it can be "a pretty hard bump that can bend metal" and cause dents. The Essex, known as the Iron Gator, resembles a small aircraft carrier, while the Yukon is 677 feet long. Navy ships routinely refuel at sea while under way. "They were probably so close there was no time to respond when the steering went out," said Allen, who served 30 years in the Coast Guard. Navy officials said it was the Essex's first collision. The ship, however, has had mechanical problems. The military publication Stars and Stripes reported in February that twice over a seven-month period, missions were scrapped because of mechanical or maintenance issues involving the 21-year-old flagship commissioned in San Diego. Navy spokesman Lt. Richard Drake at the time blamed it on wear and tear. 3rd Fleet officials said they could not comment on that since at the time the Essex was in the 7th Fleet in Japan. 7th Fleet officials could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday. The Yukon, which was launched in 1993, has been involved in at least two previous collisions, including on Feb. 27, 2000, when it collided with a 135-foot civilian cargo ship while trying to enter Dubai's Jebel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates. The Yukon sustained minor damage. Less than five months later, it was hit by the USS Denver during refueling off the coast of Hawaii. Both ships sustained heavy damage.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Discovered Wreck May Have Been First Ship To Bring Coconuts To Ireland

A merchant ship that sank in the 1600s, and which has been discovered off the West Cork coast, could have brought the first coconuts to Ireland. The Irish Examiner has learnt that marine archaeologists were called to an area near Schull after the remains of the vessel were found in recent days close to shore and embedded in silt in about 30ft of water. It’s understood the wreck was spotted in the seabed by workers who were laying underwater ‘outflow’ pipes for the new multimillion-euro Schull waste water treatment plant. Marine archaeologists were called in and a diving exclusion zone had been put in place to protect it from looters. Work has since been postponed on the underwater pipe-laying to allow archaeologists to fully explore what is described by sources as "a significant find".
It’s believed the merchant ship was returning from the Caribbean, because remains of coconuts have been found in her wreckage. Because coconuts were considered very exotic at the time they would have been a valuable commodity. The vessel may have pulled into Schull to trade and get supplies and may have sank after bad weather forced it onto rocks, which will become clearer when archaeologists complete their work. It is possible the ship sank around the same time as the sack of Baltimore by Algerian pirates and Ottoman Turks. They captured hundreds of locals and took them as slaves. Only two ever returned. Local sources say that some pottery has also been retrieved from the wreck. They also indicate that diving operations are likely to continue in the area for at least a couple of weeks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tug Reaches Ship Adrift Off Barrier Reef

An Australian tug boat yesterday reached a cargo ship which had been drifting off the Great Barrier Reef, as environmentalists warned that greater shipping traffic could harm the world’s biggest coral reef. The Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier ID Integrity broke down north of the Queensland city of Cairns on Friday, sparking alarm that the 186m, 45,000 tonne bulk carrier would smash into a reef near the World Heritage-listed site. Simon Meyjes, who heads the century-old marine group Australian Reef Pilots, said it was “sheer luck” that the Integrity had not run aground at the dive site Shark Reef or nearby. He said it appeared an environmental disaster had been averted by the crew dumping some of the Integrity’s sea water ballast so it passed over Shark Reef. “I don’t know what the actual under keel clearance would have been as it went over the reef,” he told AFP. “But certainly it would have been a very, very uncomfortable situation. They were at the mercy of the weather completely. I think that they have been very, very lucky.” Meyjes said had the Townsville-bound Integrity drifted slightly further to the north, it could have hit Osprey Reef, an exposed coral outcrop. “So it’s just sheer luck,” he said. “We’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief I can assure you.” The ship, which suffered an engine breakdown en route from Shanghai, was reached yesterdya by a commercial tug, PT Kotor, as it drifted in open water in the Coral Sea. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the tug had connected a towline to the Integrity and they were travelling slowly away from the Outer Reef and awaiting the arrival of the larger tugs.
The ship’s owner, Hong Kong-based ID Wallem, said its vessel was empty and there had been no pollution spills, adding it would “take measures to avoid any environmental impact in Australian waters”. But the incident has angered conservationists who have long raised fears about the impact on the Great Barrier Reef, particularly from shipping, from Queensland’s coal and gas boom. The Chinese-registered coal carrier Shen Neng 1 foundered in April 2010 leaking tonnes of heavy fuel oil and threatening an ecological disaster. A major catastrophe was ultimately avoided but the huge ship gouged a 3km long scar in the world’s biggest coral reef and was stranded for nine days before salvagers could refloat it. Environmental group WWF Australia said in the latest incident, a major disaster had been averted by only a matter of metres. It said the forecast increase in shipping traffic in the waters off Queensland was “a risky game of Russian roulette that is destined to end in disaster”. The independent activist group GetUp! said the stricken Integrity proved it would be reckless to increase traffic in the region. “The incident should be of concern to all Australians. It’s more likely to occur in the future as we see more and more ships use the Great Barrier Reef to export coal,” national director Simon Sheikh told ABC Radio. But Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said the theory that more ships would necessarily result in more accidents near the reef did not stand up. “If that was the case then people would be involved in far more plane crashes today than we saw 20 years ago, and clearly that’s not the case,” he said. Earlier this year representatives from Unesco visited Queensland to inspect the reef to check for any impact from coal and gas projects, which use ports near the Great Barrier Reef to export their products. They have yet to report.

blog counter