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Ship carrying three fish farm boats adrift in stormy sea

Watch a video of the crew being rescued from the deck of the Eemslift Hendrika and from the sea. Video: Norwegian Coastal Administration.

A cargo ship carrying three fish farming workboats is drifting without power in stormy seas off the coast of Norway and may run aground.

The Eemslift Hendrika got into trouble yesterday morning after the cargo on board shifted. Eight of the crew of 12 were airlifted early by the ship by rescue helicopter, while the remaining four remained on board to try to stabilise the situation.

When this did not succeed, the crew had to leave the ship, and jump overboard, before they were rescued by rescue helicopter at about 20:10 (19.10 BST). One man in his fifties was slightly injured in the incident and is said to be in a stable condition.

Run aground

Hans-Petter Mortensholm, director of environmental preparedness at the Norwegian Coastal Administration, said there was still a danger that the ship would run aground.

He told Norwegian shipping website Skipsrevyen.no that the coastguard ship Sortland was on its way to the crippled ship and would arrive sometime between 11:00 and 13:00 local time today. In addition, the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s aircraft are taking new pictures of the vessel.

“The ship is still some distance from land. If it follows the path it has now, it will take about a day and a half before it reaches land. If the weather forecast is correct, it seems that that course can turn more south eventually,” said Mortensholm.

15-metre waves

He said that there are extreme conditions in the area with 15-metre waves. Better weather is expected on Wednesday.

The ship’s owner and management have hired Smith Salvage, and the Norwegian Coastal Administration is waiting for a plan from them now.

“The danger of the ship going around is still present,” said Mortensholm. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid. Should that happen, our focus will be to handle the oil at sea. When the weather is so bad, it is difficult to drive oil, it will be easier if the weather improves.”

Tow line

The Norwegian Coastal Administration said there are 350 tonnes of heavy oil, 75 tonnes of diesel and 10m³ of lubricating oil on board the ship.

“The situation would have been far different if this had happened 200 metres from land. In this sense, it was right of the crew to set course away from land when this happened,” said Mortensholm.

He said that a tow line was laid aft on the Eemslift Hendrika before the crew had to disembark. It provides an opportunity for the Sortland to get a tow on board.

“But there you only have one chance. If that tow breaks, you are just as far. Therefore, it will be a last resort. This is something the captain of Sortland must decide and there is no doubt that the safety of the crew must come first.”