ASOC Briefing on Two Recent Accidents in the Ross Sea
ASOC Briefing on Two Recent Accidents in the Ross Sea, Antarctica Fishing Vessels Sparta and Jeong Woo 2
Sparta: On December 16, 2011 the 23-year-old Russian flagged fishing vessel Sparta, with 32 crew (15 Russian, 1 Ukrainian, 16 Indonesian), hit ice in the Ross Sea1 near the ice shelf (3704km from New Zealand) resulting in a hole in her hull below the waterline, water ingress and a 13-degree list. The 48m 708 tonne GRT (gross registered tonnage) vessel was longline fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea and was carrying 180 tons of light fuel oil.2 The crew maneuvered the vessel alongside the ice shelf and attached mooring lines to the ice. Non-essential crew were moved off the listing vessel into life rafts for some time.
The crew requested help, including extra pumping equipment, to secure the vessel and repair the damaged hull. That was dropped to them by a Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules on December 18 following a 7-hour flight, and the additional pumps helped stabilize the vessel.
The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) requested three other vessels in the region to assist with the rescue but all were hampered by heavy sea ice, including the nearest vessel, the Norwegian Sel Jevaer, only 19 nautical miles away. The sister Russian vessel, Chiyou Maru No.3, could not reach the Sparta for a few days, nor could the partially ice-strengthened San Aspiring (NZ flagged), which was a few days away and although initially responding to the request from the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre to rendezvous with the Sparta, eventually stopped as it was considered too dangerous.
After a few days the Sparta’s owner commissioned the South Korean icebreaker Araon to provide assistance and the icebreaker reached the Sparta 7 days later. She assisted with repairs to the vessel which took two days and included transferring 103 tons of fuel oil to the Araon so that the area with the hole would float above the waterline to allow the repair operation.
The Sparta was then convoyed by the Araon to an ice-free zone on December 28, 12 days after she was first holed. The Sparta was able to make it to Nelson, New Zealand on January 10 where it will be repaired.
The Sparta was built in Japan, had been previously named Ocean No. 68 and had previously flown a Cambodian flag. It was recorded by CCAMLR for the 2010/11 season as being registered in the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatcky on the Russian Pacific coast and operated by ZAO Morskoi Voron “Sea Raven”.
However the registration was changed to another Petropavolovsk company (Antei LLC, Vladivostok) and according to media reports is now operated by Sedna Industries Inc., which is based in California.3 The vessel was operating out of Montevideo, Uruguay in the 2011/12 season.
Jeong Woo 2: The Jeong Woo 2, a 51-meter vessel fishing in the Ross Sea4, got into difficulty about 350 miles from McMurdo station on January 10, 2012, with a serious fire. Three seamen were killed and seven were injured. The distress call was picked up by another Korean fishing vessel, Hong Jin 707, and relayed to the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand by the New Zealand vessel Antarctic Chieftain just before 3am on January 11. The blaze appears to have started in the living quarters before it quickly spread to the engine room and the ship's fish processing plant. It raged out of control, with the crew's firefighting teams unable to halt its progress. Some men were able to get into a life raft but the fire burned through the other life raft.
A U.S. research vessel, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, rescued the injured crewmen, who are from Indonesia and Vietnam, and a US Air Force plane has airlifted them from Antarctica to Christchurch, New Zealand for treatment of their burns.5 The other surviving crew from Vietnam, South Korea, Russia, China and Indonesia were rescued by the Hong Jin 707 and Jeong Woo 3. A third rescue ship, the Argos Georgia, also arrived at the scene on January 12. The rescued crew are now on the Jeong Woo 3, with plans for it to rendezvous with Korean ice-breaker Araon, which will take them to Lyttelton, New Zealand – they are expected to arrive around January 19.
Jeong Woo 2 is a longliner owned by the Sunwoo Corporation, licensed by CCAMLR to fish for Antarctic toothfish, rays and crabs. The ship was built in 1985 by Kanasashi Heavy Industries in Shizuoka, Japan. It has a gross registered tonnage of 489, can carry up to 2.749 tonnes of catch, and is registered in Busan, South Korea. The vessel carries an unknown amount of fuel. It is reported to still be burning and according to media reports is to be towed north of 60 degrees South latitude and a decision made on what to do with it.6
Issues: While the causes of these incidents are not yet fully clear, there are a number of concerns:
O Ice class – Neither vessel was ice strengthened.
Recommendation: ASOC has previously recommended that all vessels operating in polar waters, including fishing vessels, should be a minimum of ice class 7 or equivalent.
O Carrying of spares – the Sparta clearly was carrying insufficient extra equipment to be able to effect self-recovery. With the hole below the waterline and the need to transfer fuel to raise the level of the hole, it may not have been possible to effect self-recovery anyway, however if a 2nd pump hadn’t been airlifted to the vessel it is likely that pumping capacity would have been in sufficient to prevent the vessel from sinking.7
Recommendation: ASOC has previously recommended that all vessels operating in polar waters should carry sufficient spare equipment to deal with contingencies that are normal for those waters.
O Investigations required – ASOC submits that in-depth investigations into the recent fishing vessels accidents, including the Sparta, Jeong Woo 2 and the Korean-flagged No 1 Insung - which sank in the 2010/11 season with the loss of 22 lives - should take place, with the outcomes made publicly available. It is important for the IMO to apply the lessons learned to develop a Polar Code that covers fishing vessels, and for CCAMLR governments to take appropriate steps to ensure that threats to lives and to the environment are minimized in Antarctic fisheries.
Recommendations: ASOC calls on Korea and Russia to undertake detailed investigations into the Jeong Woo 2 and Sparta vessel accidents, respectively, and to make the findings publicly available.
ASOC urges CCAMLR to study the recent spate of fishing vessel accidents in Antarctic waters with a view to improving its rules to better protect human life and the environment, including applying rigorous rules about where non-ice-strengthened fishing vessels are permitted.
O The Polar Code for shipping now being negotiated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which will set tougher standards for most vessels operating in the Antarctic, will not initially cover fishing vessels.
Recommendation: ASOC calls on IMO member governments to speed-up the consideration of fishing vessels and find the appropriate modalities to include fishing vessels in the new Polar Code, including taking steps for the Torremolinos Protocol 1993 addressing fishing vessel safety to be brought into force and enhanced to provide appropriate rules for fishing vessels fishing in polar waters.
O Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) are developing a new network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean. The target date for the initial network to be designated is November 2012. ASOC and its member groups support no-take MPA status for the entire Ross Sea shelf and slope and other large MPAs in East Antarctica and along the Peninsula. At present it remains unclear if fishing nations will support this.
Recommendation: ASOC calls on the CCAMLR Commission to protect the Ross Sea as a no-take MPA at its meeting in Hobart this November, and to phase out fishing in this unique and almost pristine area.
1 The Ross Sea is being considered for Marine Protected Area (MPA) status by CCAMLR. ASOC supports a no-take MPA for the entire Ross Sea shelf and slope, which is the last relatively intact large marine ecosystem on earth. A paper submitted by ASOC to CCAMLR outlining the case for full protection is attached to this briefing.
2 Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, http://www.ccamlr.org
3 According to media reports: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6150088/Fishing-boat-hits-iceberg-in-Southern-Ocean
4 Previously the Koryo Maru 32, IMO 8509960.
7 This problem is not new. In 2007 the UK-flagged long line fishing vessel Argos Georgia had engine problems and was adrift in the Ross Sea for 14 days before spare parts could be airlifted to the vessel.