Cork based tug sails over a third of the way to Canada to tow crippled cargo ship to safety

Cork based tug sails over a third of the way to Canada to tow crippled cargo ship to safety
Two tugs from Atlantic Towing and Salvage aside the Onego Rio as she drops anchor off Bere Island in West Cork this afternoon after she was towed to safety from some 600-miles off the south coast. (Pictures: Niall Duffy)

An Irish salvage company has towed a crippled ocean-going cargo ship to safety after successfully completing a long-range towing operation.

A crew from Atlantic Towage and Marine, a specialist marine firm based in West Cork, had to sail their powerful recovery tug, Ocean Challenger, over a third of the way to Canada to rendezvous with the crippled cargo ship, Onego Rio.

The tug's highly trained six-man crew has spent over a week at sea, and the last five days, towing the paralysed 142-metre ship, almost the same length as Croke Park, to the safety of Berehaven Harbour.

They notched up over 1,200-miles on the round-trip.

The crippled 7,500-tonne cargo ship, which has two 80ft cranes on deck, has now anchored in the shelter of the bay in last hour where it will remain pending a full assessment of the damage and the repairs required.

The anchoring was monitored by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter.

It is not clear today how long the repairs will take.

The Dutch-flagged cargo vessel left Panama City on August 4 bound for Rosyth Port in Fife, one of Scotland's busiest ports for agricultural bulk products, where it was due to arrive last Tuesday.

But the alarm was raised last Friday, August 16, after the vessel lost all engine power and began to drift some 600-miles off the south-west coast.

The ship's owners contacted Atlantic Towage and Marine for help and a long-range towing operation was launched.

Owner Sean Harrington dispatched a crew on board the 5,000HP Ocean Challenger from Castletownbere last Friday night.

"She's the only tug in Ireland capable of such a long-range operation, and of actually towing such a large ship back," Mr Harrington said.

It was Monday before the tug rendezvoused with the stricken ship in the Atlantic and established a tow line before heading for home.

The two vessels were met at the bay entrance by a second tug, Ocean Bank, which will remain on standby until the engine repairs are complete.

Mr Harrington has been liaising with the ship's owners and with the Irish Coast Guard on the various logistics throughout the operation.

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