Ship safely berthed in Cork after marathon towing operation

Irish Coastguard co-ordinates safe recovery of Abuk Lion after vessel lost engine power in stormy seas

From Barry Roche,Southern Correspondent, Cork 31 Dec 2013

The crew of a stricken bulk freighter are this afternoon recovering ashore in Cork after spending almost three days at sea without power following engine failure in heavy seas.

The Abuk Lion was brought into Cork Harbour this afternoon after a 28 hour towing operation by the deep sea tug Celtic Isle from off the Old Head of Kinsale in West Cork, where it had been stranded since Sunday.

The Celtic Isle had brought the Abuk Lion to Roches Point at the mouth of Cork Harbour last night but heavy seas prevented the Port of Cork tug from getting a second line aboard.


Instead, the Celtic Isle brought the Abuk Lion with its crew of 13 still on board to Ringabella Bay just west of the mouth of Cork Harbour, where the bulk carrier anchored overnight.

At first light this morning, the Celtic Isle gain brought the Abuk Lion up to Roches Point where the Whitegate Oil refinery tug joined in the operation and got a second line aboard the carrier.

Both tugs then brought the bulk carrier up the harbour andjust before 2pm, manoeuvred her into a berthing at Ringaskiddy Deepwater Quay where her engines will be examined by marine engineers.

Capt David Hopkins of Irish Mainport Holdings, which owns the Celtic Isle, confirmed that Abuk Lion and her crew were safe a following the operation, which was co-ordinated by t he Irish Coastguard.

The drama had begun at 3pm on Sunday when the Abuk Lion lost her main engines some 50km off the Old Head of Kinsale and contacted the Irish Coastguard at Valentia.

The ship was en route from Aughinish in the Shannon Estuary to St Petersburg in Russia with 7,500 tonnes of bauxite and 100 tonnes of engine oil when her main engines failed.

The crew of the vessel raised the alarm given she was drifting in gale force winds with six to eight metre swells and the Irish Coastguard.

Capt Hopkins said the seven man crew of the Celtic Isle faced treacherous seas when they reached the Abuk Lion some 30km off the Old Head of Kinsale around 1am yesterday.

“It was blowing pretty strong out there with 50 knot winds and 11-12 metres swells so our guys on the Celtic Isle decide it was too dangerous to try and get a line across in those conditions in the dark.

“They waited for first light on Monday morning and began the operation to get a line aboard the Abuk Lion around 8am and by 9am, they had the casualty under tow at a speed of around 3 knots.”

However, the cable snapped at about 11am and the Celtic Isle used its secondary winch at its bow to get a new line aboard the Abuk Lion. Within 30 minutes, the two vessels were moving again.

“Our tug is designed to move backwards and the tow was connected to the stern of the casualty so they both came in backwards, reaching Roches Point at around 8pm on Monday,” Capt Hopkins said.

“But the conditions worsened so it was decided to bring her out to Ringabella and try again today which they did and they’re all safe and sound alongside now in Ringaskiddy.”

* This article was amended on January 3rd, 2014, to correct an error

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times