Halifax: Ship at Sea Has Electrical Problems

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Sunday, December 31, 2000

Disabled ship east of Nfld. in difficulty again

HALIFAX (CP) -- A 110-metre tanker with 21 crew members aboard was back in trouble 800 kilometres east of St. John's, Nfld., on Sunday evening, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre reported.

The Hong Kong-registered Marine Champion, en route to Nova Scotia from Antwerp, Belgium, reported that water had damaged its electrical systems -- ending radar and satellite communications, said centre spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Glenn Chamberlain.

"It's not an emergency. They're not looking to abandon ship, but they're concerned," he said.

"Depending on how bad their electrical problems are it can become difficult to operate the ship. If their electrical system is effected it can become difficult to do the most basic things, particularly in a storm."

The water that damaged the electrical panels was not from a hole or leak in the hull but from some other source, possibly from the high seas breaking on the deck, said Chamberlain.

The ship reported difficulties on Saturday morning and the rescue centre has been monitoring it since then. Late Saturday night the electrical systems were functioning again.

But in an interview Sunday, Chamberlain said the "systems were back on the fritz" and the situation "had taken a turn for the worse."

"They're on batteries only for most of their satellite and communications systems and they don't know how long that's going to last."

Chamberlain said it was also possible that the crew members were having to steer the 11-year-old ship manually.

Steering manually makes it "difficult to position the ship in the best way for it to handle the seas," he added.

Orders from the bridge have to be relayed to the people turning the gears, slowing the ability of the ship's captain to alter course in the heavy seas.

On Sunday evening, seas had calmed to about six metres, from Saturday's three-storey high waves. But there were concerns that strong northeasterly winds were bringing stormy weather late Sunday and early Monday.

Rescue officials have sent a Hercules aircraft to fly out over the ship and monitor the situation.

The 21 crew are from the Philippines and the cargo was listed as caustic soda.

The coast guard ship J.E. Bernier has been sent to the area and is expected to rendezvous with the Marine Champion late Monday.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), January 01, 2001

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