Rescue ship reaches stricken Sparta

The wait is over for a damaged Russian-flagged vessel struggling to stay afloat off the coast of Antarctica after another boat came to its rescue early this morning. 

South Korean icebreaker Araon reached the Sparta about 4am and began transferring fuel onto the stranded 48-metre ship about an hour later. "It's actually transferring fuel onto the Sparta in order to change the trim of the Sparta and that will mean that the bow of the ship will lift out of the water and expose the damaged area of the hull so then they can do the external and internal welding," Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman Rosemary Neilson told APNZ.

Sparta was trawling for Patagonian toothfish when it hit a submerged iceberg and issued a distress call at about 3am on December 16 from a position next to the Antarctic ice shelf, about 3700km south east of New Zealand. 

The damaged Russian fishing boat Sparta, moored to the Antarctic ice with life rafts deployed alongside.

The ship was taking on water and battling to stay afloat after the iceberg put a 10 centimetre by 40cm hole on the hull of the vessel, about 1.5m below the waterline. Last week a Royal New Zealand Hercules C130 was sent to the ship to drop pumps and other equipment. Once the ship's hull had been lifted and inspected, plates would be welded onto either side of the damage to render it seaworthy, Ms Neilson said. "And when the repair work is all done and it's been determined to be seaworthy then the Araon will escort the Sparta out into the open water again."

At 1pm today they still had 60 tonnes of fuel to transfer. All the crew on board Sparta were doing fine. "They're involved with this work to alter the trim of the ship and then the repair work." It was not known when the repair work would be completed, or where Sparta would head after reaching open water.

Source : APNZ / NZHerald