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Monday 25 September 2017

Water in the fuel system to blame for 'Astrid' wreck

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A TALL ship sank off the Cork coast and 30 trainee sailors and crew had to be dramatically rescued after its engine failed due to accidental fresh water contamination of its fuel system.

The Department of Transport's Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the 'Astrid' sinking found that fresh water loaded into one of the diesel tanks while in a UK port was the most likely cause of the July 2013 accident, which resulted in the 89-year-old Tall Ship being wrecked.

The 'Astrid' sinking remains one of the most high-profile accidents in modern Irish maritime history.

The 42m Dutch-owned sail training brig foundered and then sank on July 24, 2013, just minutes before it was to lead a parade of sail boats into Kinsale harbour from nearby Oysterhaven in Cork.

The event was a key element of 'The Gathering' tourism promotion.

The sailing vessel ran onto rocks in strong tides and currents, with nearby boats unable to pull it clear after the engines failed.

Trainee sailors and crew miraculously escaped injury in the sinking after what has been described as one of the greatest rescue operations ever mounted by the RNLI and Irish Coastguard.

The MCIB report highlighted an incident which occurred in the UK just two weeks before the Irish accident.

"On a previous voyage on or about the July 12, 2013 whilst the vessel was in Brighton, fresh water was taken on-board," the report revealed.

"When the vessel was taking on fresh water, the water filling hose was inadvertently placed into a fuel tank filler, contaminating the starboard aft fuel tank with approximately 1,000 litres of fresh water."

In a forensic examination of the 'Astrid' after her salvage, the engine fuel system was found to be contaminated.

"The results obtained are indicative that the passenger ship's main and port auxiliary engines stopped as a result of fresh water contamination of the fuel system.

"The most probable source of water [was] the fresh water accidentally put into the starboard aft fuel tank on the July 12 2013."

After the ship's engine failed off Oysterhaven, strong tides and 30-knot winds drove it onto the rocks.

"We seemed to lose power from the engine. The weather was not so good. We were pushed onto the rocks and that was it," skipper Pieter de Kam told the Irish Independent after the sinking.

The 'Astrid' was later salvaged but ruled to be "an economic write-off" and was scrapped in Cork.

Irish Independent

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