Tuesday 20 February 2018

Seven rescued after ships collide in Bay of Biscay

Emma Hallett

Seven people have been rescued from liferafts after two merchant ships collided in the Bay of Biscay.

Falmouth Coastguard co-ordinated the rescue mission, 240 miles south-west of Lands End, with the Spanish, French and USA coastguards after the collision took place at 3.30am.

It involved a small cargo ship, the Florece, registered to the Dominic Republic, and the Afrodite, a chemical tanker from the Bahamas, a coastguard spokesman said.

As the Florece sank all seven people on board, a mixture of Russian, Polish and Ukrainian, abandoned the ship to liferafts and were rescued by a container vessel, Ocean Titan.

They are now "safe and well" and on their way back to land.

The spokesman added: "Falmouth Coastguard were alerted to the plight of the crew when the emergency position-indicating radio beacon was set off as their vessel began to sink.

"The Florece was 240 miles south-south-west of Land's End at the time of the incident and was therefore within the UK's search and rescue region.

"Falmouth Coastguard used long-range information tracking to locate the nearest ship to the position given.

"When they spoke to the master of the ship, Afrodite, he informed them that he had been in collision with the cargo vessel Florece and that the crew had abandoned to liferafts.

"The Afrodite had attempted to deploy its fast rescue craft but had been unsuccessful due to the sea swell."

The chemical tanker sustained little damage in the collision.

Falmouth Coastguard watch manager Terry Collins said: "I am pleased to report that all seven crew of the Florece are safe and well which is an excellent outcome.

"This was an internationally co-ordinated response with coastguards from Spain, France, the USA and the UK joining forces with the crew of the Ocean Titan to ensure the safe recovery of the seafarers.

"Satellite technology and modern communications made all the difference with this incident, meaning that we were able to pinpoint the location of the sinking ship, call the nearest vessel and co-ordinate a response within minutes."

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