Navy and coastguard secure safety of 13 crew aboard stricken bulk carrier

The Abuk Lion under tow off the Old Head of Kinsale. The Bermuda-registered bulk carrier was en route from Aughinish to St Petersburg in Russia.

A joint Irish naval and coastguard operation has succeeded in securing the safety of 13 crew on board a stricken bulk carrier drifting without power in stormy seas off the Co Cork coast.

The freighter Abuk Lion, which radioed for help after its main engine failed at around 3pm on Sunday, was under tow and heading for Cork harbour on Monday. It was expected to reach Roche’s Point at 8pm last night.

The ocean-going tug Celtic Isle got a tow on board the 108m-long vessel, some 24km off the Old Head of Kinsale after drifting almost 32km towards shore overnight.

However, the towline broke in heavy seas and it took strenuous efforts to secure it again.

“The wind has dropped considerably, but there are still heavy swells of six to eight metres,” a Valentia Coastguard spokesman said. “There were some problems with the towline. It broke and, although they managed to fix another one, they are now taking it more slowly to make sure that it doesn’t break again.”

The Abuk Lion, a Bermuda-registered bulk carrier, was en route from Aughinish in the Shannon Estuary to St Petersburg in Russia with 7,500 tonnes of bauxite when its engines failed off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The crew of the vessel raised the alarm and the Irish Coastguard assessed the situation as the ship faced gale force winds and six- to- eight-metre swells off the Cork coast.

The tug crew waited for conditions to moderate. When winds calmed, they managed to get a tow on board. However, the rescue operation remained challenging as there were still heavy swells to contend with.

The Irish Naval Ship, the LE Róisín, is at the scene and is standing by to assist and escort the stricken bulk carrier to Cork.

None of the crew was injured in the incident. “We don’t believe there is any real danger here,” a Coastguard spokesman said.

“The ship has got auxiliary power and has some bow thrusters working. Conditions at sea are bad now, but nothing like what we had seen over Christmas.”

An Irish Coastguard Sikorski helicopter also remains on standby at Waterford airport in case it is needed in the rescue and recovery operation.

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