By A Staff Reporter -
MUSCAT — A potential tragedy involving 33 sailors aboard a floundering North Korean cargo ship was averted yesterday when tugboats deployed at the Port of Duqm scrambled to the vessel’s rescue yesterday afternoon.
According to a senior representative of Khimji’s Sparkle Marine Services (KSMS), which owns and operates the tugboat service at the Port of Duqm, the stricken MV Daesan and its crew are now safely at anchorage pending inspections and repairs of a breached hull that sparked the emergency.
Speaking to the Observer, Ebey Alex, General Manager, said: “At around 12 noon, we were alerted by the dockmaster at Oman Dry-dock Company and the harbour master of Port of Duqm about a vessel in distress just off the port.
“The SOS was relayed via the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre of Oman to all the relevant agencies and authorities in the area. All three tugboats operated by Khimji’s Sparkle then steamed to the ship’s rescue.
“We found the vessel about eight nautical miles off Duqm Port with its forward section partially under water. Much of the cargo — including cars, wooden logs and so on — was strewn around on the deck. Clearly, the lashings had given way, and the ship was in an unstable condition.”
It is understood that the vessel was en route from Port Rashid (UAE) to the port on East African coast via the Suez when one of the forward compartments began taking on water. A helicopter dispatched by the Royal Air Force of Oman buzzed overhead as the tugboats and their crews prepared to render assistance to the MV Daesan. According to Alex, offers to evacuate non-essential crew were declined as the master conferred with the vessel’s agent.
At one point, the agent also quizzed Alex about the likely cost of the entire rescue.
“I was dumbstruck by his query. But I categorically told him that our response to the master’s SOS was strictly a humanitarian one designed to save lives, and not a commercial one,” Alex recalled.
After further parleys with the agent, the master then requested assistance to the nearest safe haven. Given the precarious condition of the cargo ship, it was decided to escort the Daesan to anchorage at the Port of Duqm where the vessel has since dropped anchor.
“We made submersible pumps available to help them pump water from the flooded compartment before an inspection can be made of any hull damage.
“Our staff are also in constant communication with them in case they need to be evacuated or require any other assistance,” Alex added.