At about 01:30 LT Dec 15, 2011 fire started in one of the crew’s cabins on board of nuclear icebreaker Vaygach. Icebreaker, escorting one or several merchant vessels,  was under way from Dudinka port, Enisey river, Siberia, to Murmansk, still in Enisey, close to river’s estuary.  At  04:00 LT crew extinguished the fire, two crew died and one seriously injured, presumably fire started because of negligence of cabin’s inhabitants. Nuclear reactor and all mechanisms didn’t suffer any damages, but vessel assumedly, is ordered to proceed to Dudinka for investigation.

Nuclear icebreaker Vaygach IMO 8417493, displacement 21100, built 1990, flag Russia, owner Russian Government.

Photo of nuclear icebreaker Vaygach

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:


Sparta’s crew advised Dec 17 that temporary patches they had attached to the damaged section of hull had failed and the boat was again taking on water – however, in the morning Dec 18, they have confirmed water ingress has again been stopped. Sparta crew made a good progress slowing water ingress after on Dec 17 a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C130 Hercules dropped off extra pumping equipment and fuel to the vessel, after a seven-hour flight from Christchurch, reports RCCNZ. RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Dave Wilson said the two vessels Sel Jevaer and Chiyo Maru no. 3 were continuing to proceed towards Sparta. Their progress is being hampered by heavy sea ice and the vessels are expected to take several days to reach Sparta’s position. On Dec 17 RCCNZ released the New Zealand vessel San Aspiring from the rescue operation, after its crew confirmed the conditions were too difficult for it to proceed. Sparta’s owner has commissioned the South Korean icebreaker Araon to go to Sparta to offer assistance. Araon left New Zealand just after midnight Dec 18 and is expected to take about eight days to reach Sparta.
South Korean research icebreaker Araon IMO 9490935, GRT 7487, built 2009, flag South Korea, owner Korea Polar Research Institute.

Jack-up rig Kolskaya was under tow by icebreaker Magadan and AHST Neftegaz-55 from Kamchatka western coast area to Zyryanskaya Bay, Sakhalin island, Okhotsk sea. At 0224 Moscow time Dec 18 Kolskaya issued distress signal, received by MRCC Sakhalin, vessels were in position 49 31N 148 14E (153 nm NE of Cape Terpeniya extreme east point of Sakhalin island). Air taps of tanks No. 35 and 37 were destroyed in a process of towing, massive water ingress, pumps were working at max capacity. Then the tow line from icebreaker Magadan was damaged, Kolskaya asked for immediate assistance. At about 0600 Moscow time rig capsized, with 67 staff on board. At 0640 helicopter left airport Nogliki, Sakhalin. By 1100 Moscow time 14 people were rescued, 2 dead found and lifted. Search and Rescue is under way. Jack-up rig Kolskaya was built in 1985 in Finland, length 70 meters, width 80 meters, class DNV, owner Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka.

Russian media report reefer Irina issued distress signal at 2120 Moscow time Jan 03 2012, vessel disabled in stormy Okhotsk sea 13 miles off Kunashir Island coastline (southernmost Kuril Archipelago Island, next to Hokkaido). Character of distress unclear, presumably engine is down, there is water ingress in engine room, crew controlling water ingress with pumps. Nearby reefer Tatarstan was directed to distressed Irina and is standing by. Salvage tug Atlas left Korsakov port, Sakhalin, at 2230 Moscow time same day, with less than 24 hours to reach Irina. Crew is 19, all Russians, cargo 500 tons of frozen fish. Wind is up to 30 meters/sec, sea up to 6 meters, though media don’t report the direction, if cyclone is from south direction, it’s not so dangerous.


Reefer Irina (ex Vega) IMO  8204078, dwt 3847, built 1982, flag Russia, manager BRIG-STAR SHIPPING CO LTD, Vladivostok.

As of 0300 Moscow time Jan 6 runaway unmanned reefer Irina was in position 43-16N 146-36E, Pacific ocean, 25 nm South of Shikotan island. Abandoned by the crew vessel valiantly fights bad weather and human errors, with a stern tilt some 5 degrees. Salvage tugs Atlas and Suvorovets are pursuing a runaway vessel, and there is a good chance Irina will be salvaged, subject to weather and salvors skills.

Unmanned reefer Irina, abandoned by crew in the morning hours Jan 4, was taken on tow by salvage tugs Atlas and Suvorovets sometime during Jan 8 in Pacific ocean, some 60 nm SE of Shikotan Island, Kuril Islands. Four days unmanned vessel was drifting on her own, and made quite an extraordinary journey in stormy weather, from inner waters between Kunashir and Shikotan islands, through narrow and dangerous Spanberg Strait into Pacific ocean, and then some 60 miles in southern direction. Vessel was abandoned as being in clear and present danger of sinking, but somehow managed to stay afloat without any visible signs of worsening condition in stormy Pacific.