Sunday, January 4, 2015

Loss of the Cemfjord in the Pentland Firth

The cargo ship Cemfjord has capsized and sunk in the Pentland Firth, between Orkney and Caithness. A Cyprus-flagged ship, the Cemfjord was hauling a consignment of cement to Cheshire when it went missing Friday afternoon. Its bow was spotted by the Hrossey on Saturday afternoon, and several lifeboats and rescue helicopters were dispatched to the area to search for survivors. As I write this, no survivors have been found. BBC Radio Orkney has posted a number of updates, which I've reproduced below (with the original links.

Update #1:
A large sea search operation is underway South East of Orkney after an upturned vessel was sighted in the water. Lifeboats from Longhope, Stromness, Scrabster and Wick as well as the search and rescue helicopter from Sumburgh are combing the area and are being assisted by the Northlink ferry Hrossey. The search appears to be concentrated at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth.
Update #2:
Four lifeboats and the Coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh are still searching the sea at the eastern end of the Pentland Firth after it was reported that an upturned boat had been sighted in the water. The Stromness and Longhope lifeboats as well as those from Wick and Scrabster are in the are searching. The Northlink ferry Hrossey assisted with the search for a time but has now resumed its journey to Aberdeen. The picture shows the search pattern being followed by the Longhope lifeboat.
Update #3:
A cargo ship carrying cement has been reported as missing. The Cypriot registered "Cemfjord" was last seen passing through the Pentland Firth on Friday afternoon but since then the 83 metre ship hasn't been heard from. Four lifeboats from Stromness, Scrabster, Longhope and Wick are currently combing the ship's last know position in the Pentland Firth. The coastguard rescue helicopter from Sumburgh is also involved in the operation. Earlier in the day the Northlink ferry "Hrossey" is understood to have sighted an object in the sea to the east of the Pentland Firth and raised the alarm. The "Cemfjord" carries a crew of nine and was on route to Runcorn in Cheshire.
Update #4:
Pictures taken by passengers aboard the Northlink ferry Hrossey have confirmed that the cargo vessel "Cemfjord" has sunk. A search operation is underway for the crew which is thought to number eight men.
Update #5:
A sea and land search was launched at first light this morning to try and locate the missing crew from the cargo ship "Cemfjord". The bow of the sunken ship was spotted by the Northlink ferry "Hrossey" yesterday while it was on passage to Aberdeen. Longhope, Stromness and Scrabster lifeboats as well as coastguard search teams are involved in the operation. Of the eight crew who are missing - seven are from Poland and one is from the Philippines.
Update #6:
Coastguards say that a vessel which capsized in the Pentland Firth now appears to have sunk. The Cemfjord has been drifting to the eastern approaches to the Firth since it was spotted by a passenger ferry on Saturday. It's believed to have capsized in gale force winds on Friday afternoon.There's been no sign of the vessel's eight crew. The MCA tug Herakles is continuing to standby the submerged ship. Local coastguard teams from Orkney are being transported by helicopter this afternoon to two uninhabited islands in the Pentland Firth. The four lifeboats involved in the search are all returning to their respective bases - though coastguards say they're not yet being officially stood down. A small inflatable tender was found badly damaged yesterday on the shoreline of South Ronaldsay, but there's no confirmation on whether it came form the Cemfjord.
Apparently, this isn't the first time the Cemfjord has run into trouble. Last July, the vessel ran aground off Denmark, possibly because its Russian captain was drunk at the helm. That captain was replaced, and the eight man crew is believed to have consisted of seven Poles and one Filipino, as noted above. The Cemfjord was a cement carrier, owned and operated by the German company Brise Bereederung, and flagged in Cyprus.

Radio Orkney took a hammering in the comments to Update #4. Many claimed that it was disrespectful and unprofessional to post the photos before confirmation that the family had been notified. Having worked in risk management myself, and having had some exposure to the risk management sector of the energy industry while I was in Aberdeen, I know that companies that have their act together will have a risk management program either in house or through a third party to ensure that measures are in place to ensure that loved ones are contacted as soon as anything happens to a vessel, or oil rig, or what have you. So, I took all of the complaints with a grain of salt. I can also tell you from my own experience on ferries running to and from Orkney that the sea conditions in the Pentland Firth during the Winter months are no joke. This incident serves as a solemn reminder of the Longhope Lifeboat tragedy of 1969, when the Liberian-flagged vessel Irene ran aground and the Longhope Lifeboat based in South Walls (a tidal island/peninsula which is considered part of Hoy) was lost with all hands. As the lifeboats, coast guard, and Royal Air Force personnel continue to manage the crisis, our thoughts and prayers should be with the emergency services and the families of the missing crew.

No comments:

Post a Comment