Russia marine service attempts to pump fuel from tanker grounded in winter storm

Russia’s Marine Rescue Service (MRS) is attempting to pump the fuel off a product tanker that ran aground off Sakhalin Island during fierce winter storms that are continuing.

The efforts began on November 14th and the MRS is working to complete it before there is a significant oil leak and the environmental situation deteriorates badly.

The Russia-flagged Victoria had left Vladivostok and was transiting the Tatar Strait (which runs between the mainland of Russia and Sakhalin Island) on November 10th when the ship experienced problems with its main engine. The captain issued a distress call, reporting that the main engine was not working and the steering control was damaged.

The 2,800 dwt tanker 276-footer was driven ashore in the high surf when it was about five miles to the south of the port of Nevlsk on the southwestern coast of Sakhalin. The vessel was reported to be grounded about 1,300ft from shore, near Cape Lopatino. The stern appeared to be stuck but the bow was shifting in the surf.

The captain reported that there were 10 people aboard, but that they were not in any immediate danger.

Attempts to reach the vessel were hampered by a strong storm crossing the area. Waves were reported to be up to 15ft and strong winds were blowing along with snow and rain.

The tanker has 700 tons of diesel aboard as cargo and a further 60 tons of fuel in its tanks. Rescue vessel Otto Schmidt was able to reach the area, but could not approach the Victoria due to the high waves. They had been hoping to attach a towline, but reports are that the rescue ship is holding at a distance away from the ship waiting for the seas to calm. The winds were too strong for a helicopter to approach the vessel.

The MRS said that it would take approximately two days to pump the fuel from the Victoria to onshore fuel tanks. After that they hoped to attempt to refloat the tanker.