Empty lifeboat recovered from strait

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012

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A large empty lifeboat, understood to have fallen off a Greek bulk shipping carrier, was found floating in Foveaux Strait yesterday.

A Bluff-based commercial fisherman saw it floating and contacted authorities, with the Riverton Coastguard boat dispatched to the scene, about 35km west of Riverton, at 9am.

Riverton Coastguard spokesman Noel Anderson said when they reached the enclosed fibreglass lifeboat, which was about 10m long and half full of water, they hitched a rope to it and began towing it to shore.

However, because it was so heavy the tow rope snapped twice. A trawler came to help, towing it to just outside the Riverton Harbour, with the tow rope snapping a couple more times on the way.

The tide was too low for the Riverton Coastguard boat to tow the lifeboat over the bar and into the harbour yesterday afternoon, so the lifeboat was secured to a commercial fishing boat's mooring near the bar last night.

The coastguard will go back out today and tow it into Riverton about 11am.

Inquiries had revealed the lifeboat fell off an 89,000-tonne Greek bulk shipping carrier called Anangel-happiness, Mr Anderson said.

The closest the shipping carrier had been to New Zealand was Singapore.

It was essential to get the lifeboat out of the ocean because it was a shipping hazard, Mr Anderson said.

"If [a boat] hit that at night I would hate to think what would happen."

Police and Environment Southland would determine the lifeboat's future after it was towed in today, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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