Russian fishing vessel Sparta issued distress signal at about 19:00 Moscow time Dec 15, 2011 from position in Ross sea, about 2000 nm SE of New Zealand, vessel is stuck in ice, holed and taking on water, there is 13 degrees list.  Crew is 32. Russians  15 (one scientist), 16 Indonesians and 1 Ukrainian. Crew is understood to be well, reports the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), which is coordinating rescue efforts. The crew is pumping water out of the holds and discharging cargo onto the ice to lighten the ship. Some of the crew have been offloaded onto the ice, as a precautionary measure.

RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Ramon Davis said RCCNZ had contacted a number of vessels operating in the southern ocean, but heavy sea ice was making vessel movement difficult. Another Russian fishing vessel, sister-ship Chiyo Maru no. 3, is making its way towards the stricken vessel. However, Chiyo Maru no. 3 is about 290 nautical miles (NM) away and has no ice classification, meaning no capacity to cut or break through sea ice. The New Zealand vessel San Aspiring, which has some capacity to move through ice, is also making its way towards Sparta. San Aspiring is currently 470 NM from Sparta and at its current speed is expected to reach the vessel in 4-5 days.

A third vessel is only 19 NM away, but is hemmed in by heavy ice and unable to proceed towards Sparta.

A Hercules aircraft from McMurdo Station was in the air and expected to reach Sparta around midday. The aircraft would not be able to rescue any of the crew, but it would assess the ice conditions and help identify options for speeding up the rescue effort, if possible.

There were no helicopters which could undertake a rescue in the area and the best option to assist Sparta was identifying a nearby vessel which could come to its aid.

Fishing vessel Sparta IMO 8809361, displacement 876, built 1988 Japan, flag Russia, owner Sea Raven Co., Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.

Chiyo Maru No.3 IMO 8717207, displacement 1051, built 1987, flag Russia, owner Antey Co., Sakhalin, Nevelsk.

Photo of Chiyo Maru No.3, of the same with Sparta type and roughly same dimensions, by Wayne A Court, Lyttelton, New Zealand. Source:  http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=216855