Two men were saved when the tug Asterix capsized while unberthing a chemical tanker at Fawley Refinery. The incident, currently under investigation by the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, is a reminder of the speed with which the enormous forces involved in ship handling can cause a tug to girt, giving crew little chance to escape, as the video below, from an incident investigated by Canada’s Transport Safety Board, shows.
Operated by Solent Towage, the UK subsidiary of Østensjø Rederi of Norway, the 2013-built Asterix capsized at about 2000 on 30 March. RNLI volunteers from Calshot, Cowes and Lymington were all involved in the emergency response.
As the stricken tug boat was being towed back to the Fawley jetty. One crew member of the Asterix managed to jump clear and swim to safety, leaving one man still unaccounted for.
Calshot launched its Atlantic 85 B class lifeboat Max Walls and reached the scene in minutes. Quickly joined by Cowes RNLI Atlantic 85 B class lifeboat Sheena Louise and Lymington’s new Atlantic 85 B class lifeboat Doug Bradley. They undertook a co-ordinated search of the windswept waters, using powerful searchlights. Joining the three lifeboats in the search was another Fawley tug, Ibex, together with Red Funnel’s car ferry Red Eagle and catamaran Red Jet 4. One lifeboat crew banged on the hull of the Asterix, still visible at this stage above the water, but received no response.
A Fawley emergency employee who was watching the capsized vessel from the pontoon then just glimpsed an arm in a small pocket of air behind a window. Without hesitation the employee leapt into the water, smashed the window and extracted the trapped crew member.
Both were evacuated from the water just before the tug sank. Both the rescuer and rescued, plus the man who had swum clear earlier, received immediate emergency care from the attending paramedics and RNLI crew members who are first-aid trained. All three men were then taken by ambulance to hospital.
RNLI crews were released from the scene and returned to their respective stations to ready their boats for service
Says Østensjø Rederi CEO, Johan Rokstad: “…our crew have been safely rescued. Our focus is with our crew and we are providing them with all necessary help. A big thank you goes to the rescue team for keeping our crew safe… Salvage operations are now being prepared to rise the sunken mooring launch.”