Freed Sparta makes it into port

00:00, Jan 10 2012
Sparta
IN FOR REPAIRS: The damaged Russian vessel Sparta makes its way into Port Nelson.

Crew of the Russian ship Sparta, which limped into Port Nelson yesterday after it was damaged in ice off the Antarctic were treated to dinner last night courtesy of the Indonesian ambassador to New Zealand.

The 48-metre vessel, with a crew of 32 aboard, ran into trouble in mid December in the Ross Sea. Many of the crew are Indonesian, and the consul arrived from Wellington yesterday to mark their safe arrival, shipping agent representative Andrew Sherburd said.

"It was a fairly traumatic time and it's a chance for the ambassador to say, `well done'," said Mr Sherburd, the Lyttelton-based port operations manager for McKay Shipping, which handled the logistics of the rescue operation.

The crew appeared relieved to have made it safely to port. Port Nelson linesmen Bob Huggins and Glenn Bisdee helped to tie up the Sparta which at one point appeared to have difficulty finding reverse. MAF inspectors boarded straight away to provide quarantine and customs clearance.

The Sparta was to have gone to Lyttelton for repairs, but a ship already on the slipway there and a list of others waiting forced a search for an alternative. Mr Sherburd said they looked at almost every port in the country, but Nelson turned out to be the best option because the slip was available earliest.

He said the journey to Nelson took about 12 to 14 days including the time it took to be escorted through a lane in the ice opened by South Korean icebreaker Araon. It was then a seven or eight-day trip across open ocean to New Zealand.

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The ship was stuck for 12 days in the Ross Sea next to the Antarctic ice shelf after running into ice in mid December which cut a 30cm hole in the hull. The Araon arrived to help before New Year and repairs to the hole were completed. A smaller hole was also found in the hull. The Araon then escorted Sparta and opened a lane to allow both vessels to make their way from the ice shelf.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force plane had earlier dropped a pump, fuel and other equipment to the Sparta, which had been taking on water since ice punched the hole in its hull below the waterline.

Mr Sherburd said Maritime New Zealand appointed McKay Shipping to handle the logistics of the ship's rescue, which sourced the equipment and arranged the air drop. He said the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand and crew of the air force Hercules did a "brilliant job".

Mr Sherburd had arrived from Lyttelton to help with standard pre-arrival documentation.

Port Nelson firm Diverse Engineering would be carrying out repairs, after a full inspection and assessment was done.

The Nelson Mail