Chieftain returns after springing leak

00:00, Jan 27 2010

Nelson fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain has made a safe return home after crew noticed it was taking on water while in the Southern Ocean.

The 68m longliner entered Port Nelson on Monday night with the bow prominently out of the water.

Sealord general manager of international fishing Ross Tocker said the crew discovered "water coming out where it was not supposed to" in the bilge, and traced it to a small split on the starboard side of the vessel, originally below the waterline.

Ballast water was pumped out, which raised the hull enough to a point where the split was above the water, Mr Tocker said.

He was unsure of the vessel's exact position when the problem was noticed, but said the seven-day journey back home meant it was probably about 1500 nautical miles from New Zealand at the time.

A camera placed down into the area revealed a split in a join where there were some welds in the hull.

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"We don't know what caused it, but the vessel will be in the dry dock next week," Mr Tocker said.

He said the crew made the prudent decision to return home, and he was pleased that they and the vessel had arrived back safely, assisted by reasonable weather.

The Antarctic Chieftain is the flagship vessel of New Zealand Long Line Ltd, a 50-50 joint venture between Nelson-based companies Sealord and Talley's.

In 2008, the joint venture invested up to $8 million in the longliner, which was destined to fish in Antarctic waters.

The Antarctic Chieftain then underwent a $2.5 million refit in Nelson and was blessed at Port Nelson in a ceremony in September 2008.

The company fishes in Antarctic waters under the strict environmental protocols of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

The Nelson Mail