Tuesday, December 27, 2011

High drama off the Antarctic ice shelf

The crew of the 48 meter Russian fishing vessel Sparta have spent the last week struggling to keep their ship upright and afloat.

Luckily, or perhaps just thankfully, there was help nearby and they're no longer on their own. The South Korean ice-breaker Araon has arrived to assist in making repairs and, temporarily at least, bring the fishing vessel's stability condition back to a point where they can make their way to safety.

The question, once the Sparta is safe, is what she was doing there in the first place?

The Sparta was in the Ross Sea off the Antarctic ice shelf fishing for Patagonian Toothfish, a species of sea bass which brings anywhere from US$50 - 60 per kg. In the process of her expedition she struck Antarctic ice and punched a significant hole in her hull well below the waterline. She has a second hole in her bulbous bow which is not expected to prevent her progress to a safe port.

This is "Gold Rush" fishing.

The Sparta is a 24-year old, single-skinned trawler/long-liner. Hardly the class of vessel that should be inhabiting the ice infested waters of the Antarctic. She has liferafts but no lifeboats. In waters that cold liferafts would be near useless. She is a typically underpowered fishing vessel designed for a completely different kind of service. Had the Royal New Zealand Air Force not dropped pumps to her she would likely have sunk and, despite only having a portion of her 180 tonnes of fuel onboard, would have created an unprecedented environmental mess in an area where clean-up would have been near impossible.

She was licensed to fish in the Antarctic closed ecosystem by the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.


North Van's Grumps said...

Interesting drama, also the data that goes along with it. I took the next step in your blog and went to Licensed Vessels http://www.ccamlr.org/pu/e/sc/fish-monit/vess-licensed.htm
Moved on down the list of vessels eg. Sparta documentation...took a look at the four photographs WHICH no way resembles the vessel captured by http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10774517

The ones in the Official documents http://www.ccamlr.org/pu/e/sc/fish-monit/vess-lic/2012-Sparta.pdf, four photos all taken of the Starboard side doesn't match that of news media link above.

There's been massive amount of upgrade to the vessel's Starboard side, portlights too, where it used to be open to the weather.

Are the vessels one and the same?

Anonymous said...

To the best of my knowledge they are the same vessel.