Flooding Forces Reefer's Crew to Abandon Ship
On Friday, the refrigerated cargo ship Uruguay Reefer suffered a "massive intake of water" in her number two hold, and 48 hours later her crew abandoned ship due to worsening flooding.
At the time the Uruguay reported the flooding, she was at a position about 100 nm off Elephant Island, an isolated outcropping in the Southern Ocean near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The vessel still had propulsion, and her master planned to seek assistance from two company-owned vessels in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands. He told authorities that he suspected that she had struck floating ice.
An Argentine P3B Orion maritime patrol aircraft out of Ushuaia, Patagonia performed an overflight and found the Uruguay listing slightly. The authorities did not immediately dispatch a response vessel – the ARA Isla Malvinas, also based in Ushuaia – but they retained SAR assistance as an option if necessary.
On Sunday, vessel operator Baltmed Reefer Services reported that the Uruguay's crew was unable to halt the ingress of water and that flooding was worsening in persistent rough weather. At 0500 hours on May 7, the vessel's master ordered abandon ship, and all 42 of the Uruguay's crew safely transferred to another merchant vessel, the reefer Taganrogskiy Zaliv (also operated by Baltmed). At the time the crew abandoned ship, the Uruguay was heavily trimmed by the bow. The reefer Frio Las Palmas (also operated by Baltmed) remained on scene to monitor the stricken vessel, and as of Monday her AIS signal showed her stationary about 100 nm east-southeast of the Falklands.
In a statement, Baltmed commended all three vessels' crews for their performance. "We thank both the Master of the [Uruguay] for his courageous actions to rescue his crew and the vessel under the most adverse circumstances and we thank the Master, officers and crew of all vessels involved in the rescue operation," the firm said.