With the upcoming subchapter M regulations for unispected towing vessels, I feel the current ongoing drama surrounding the Charlene Hunt and it’s tow the Lyubov Orlova warrants some of my own thoughts. That is in addition to the information I have gathered from friends, seeing as the Charlene is from my neck of the woods.
From what I’ve been able to gather from several sources I have talked to the story shaping up appears to be as follows.
A few months ago the Charlene Hunt was either leased, or leased with the intent to purchase (for scrap) by two younger canadian men. She was to tow the dead ship to the Dominican Republic for scrapping, and upon arrival be purchased for scrap herself. While in New Bedford prior to departure for Canada, some repairs were maid. Namely a new tow wire (1200ft, 1 1/2′) was installed, supposedley with much difficulty. They also filled one of the after compartments with expanding foam to increase its watertight integrity. From a video on youtube from a New Bedford local they did managae to get the diesel fired up with out two much difficulty (three or so hours), Which considering she had been sitting unattended in New Bedford for at least eight months (by my count) isn’t too too bad. They also changed her registry to Bolivia, whether this was done by Hunt Marine or by her new owners is unclear. It does appear that at least some of the crew was made up of Hunt Marine employees according to one source.
The voyage up to St. John’s is by all accounts when the real fun started. In route she had to have pumps airlifted by the CCG and all of the crew except for the Captain and one other evacuated until she made her way into Halifax for repairs. She then continued up to St. Johns to pick up the Lyubov Orlova, and soon into that two parted the two wire. The ship drifted around for several days until one of the vessels attending to a field operated by Huskey Energy. This vessel, the Atlantic Hawk, is an AHTS under charter to Huskey Energy and has a bollard pll rating of 157 tons.
Now, what you may ask, does this have to do new regulations for american flagged towing vessels? Well in my opinion it is these types of incidents, that are really a guilt by association situation. Though in fact it may be a guilty as charged scenario if the vessel is indeed still owned and operated by Hunt Marine. Attempting an ocean tow like that in the best of conditions with a vessel of appropraite size and condition is still a serious undertaking. Never mind a 50 year old boat taken out of mothballs and fired up, in JANUARY IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC! There is a reason the north atlantic winter has its own load line!
What troubles me even more, is what competent mariner says yes to a job as crew on a gig like this? More over why did Transport Canada and the Port Authority in St. Johns approve them for departure after they needed pumps dropped to them on the way up. This is light of the tug Craig Trans being detained for safety and health reasons when she arrived in Halifax for another dead ship tow.
For more information simply do a search with either of the tug’s names, or check Gcaptain’s front page.