Salvage teams were unable to save a Chinese bulker that was damaged in a collision with heavy ice flows near the Russian port of Vanino.
The Maritime Rescue Service of Rosmorrechflot, the Russian emergency services ministry, confirmed that the YONG XING 56sank on March 1 approximately 42 miles south-southwest of the seaport after several days of salvage attempts. Last week it was reported that the 33,600 dwt bulker was in the Tatar Strait drifting with other vessels in the ice flows while waiting to proceed to the port. The vessel had been caught in the heavy ice flows since February 19 when it arrived in the area and late on February 23 issued a distress call saying it was taking on water.
The 21 crewmembers abandoned ship onto the ice and were rescued by the Russian ferry Sakhalin 8 and taken to Vanino. The icebreaker OTTO SCHMIDT of the Maritime Rescue Service arrived at the site on February 24 and began freeing the ice. They conducted an inspection of the vessel reporting it was down at the bow but appeared stable.
The Chinese crewmembers were returned to the ship and working with the Russian salvage team determined there was a hole in the area of the forepeak, collision bulkhead, and number one hold. The decision was made not to attempt to offload the cargo, which consisted of 29,000 tons of alumina, and instead repair the vessel while using pumps to control the ingress of water. Rescuers made attempts to seal the hole which measured approximately 6.5 feet by 5 feet, according to the Russian Maritime Service. They were also aided by a lessening of the ice condition which the Maritime Services described as falling from 10 to 8 points. Additional equipment was brought to the vessel on February 28, but the report says the flooding of the interior continued and the trim at the bow continued to increase. Overnight the waves began to overwhelm the vessel and at 2230 on February 28 the decision was made to remove the pumps and cut the mooring lines. The salvage team had determined the pumps were not capable of handling the rate of water coming aboard the vessel
The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Transport Investigation Department has begun an investigation looking for any violations of the rules for traffic safety and marine operations. At the same time, the Far Eastern Transport Prosecutor's Office is investigating the implementation of safety legislation. They will also review the competence and timeliness of the rescue operation.