Ice Prince Update

On Thursday, January 17, two days after the Greek-registered general cargo vessel Ice Prince sank, the United Kingdom's (UK's) Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) reported that ". . . the UK tug Anglian Earl is remaining on scene as a guardship. With 46.8 metres of estimated clearance over the wreck it is not seen to be a hazard to navigation but a full survey of the wreck site will be carried out today by the Irish Lights vessel Granuaile." However, when MarEx went online, the results of the survey had not yet been released.

In the early morning of Tuesday, January 15, the Ice Prince sank in "very rough weather approximately 26 miles south south east of the Portland Bill (50 09.9N 002 02.08W)," the MCA stated. All 20 members of the vessel's crew were evacuated, with only minor injuries except for one man who broke his leg, before the vessel sank. The January 15 MCA press release on the incident describes the ship's state on the morning of the sinking: "The vessels stern is now on the bottom and the vow is above the water."

Two days prior, on the evening of January 13, the 6,395-ton, 100-meter-long Ice Prince ran into "difficulties mid channel," about 35 miles southeast of Start Point. En route to Alexandria, the ship's cargo of 528 metric tons of sawn timber had shifted while the vessel was "rolling heavily in very poor weather," including "rough seas and winds of up to force 7," causing the Ice Prince to list at 25 degrees.

Later that evening, the Master on board the Ice Prince reported that she was without power, though she had working navigation lights powered by emergency batteries, and was drifting at nearly 4 knots. The darkness on board the vessel caused one crew member, a 41-year-old Greek national, to break his leg. He, along with 11 other "non essential crew," were subsequently evacuated by the Coastguard rescue helicopter India Juliet from Portland, which was "immediately scrambled to the vessel" after the Master reported the injury to the Coastguard at 8:15 p.m. The RNLI Torbay and Salcombe lifeboats "took off" the remaining 8 crew members later in the evening.

Just before midnight on January 13, the Ice Prince was reportedly ". . . listing at 40 degrees to port." This increased list, as well as a "five metre swell with winds gusting to force 8," caused an undetermined amount of the vessel's 2,000 tons of deck cargo to fall into the sea, which the French Coastguard soon began broadcasting warnings about to alert other vessels in the area. The MCA's counter pollution team was also alerted that the Ice Prince was carrying 313 metric tons of fuel oil in her bunkers.

The French Coastguard tug Abeille Liberté stood by the vessel throughout Monday, January 14, and hourly reported the condition of the Ice Prince to the Coastguard. This monitoring, with the added surveillance of the tug Anglian Earl, continued during the night. Then, at a quarter to one on the morning of January 15, the Ice Prince sank.

"Just before she sank," the January 15 MCA press statement continues, "the crew of the Abeille Liberté reported that further deck cargo had been lost to the sea and that the angle of the list had increased but that visibility is very poor at present in very rough weather. The tug is remaining on scene to act as a guard ship to the wreck." After an MCA counter pollution aerial surveillance aircraft passed over the area to assess the extent of debris from the Ice Prince, it was estimated that "2,000 tons of untreated sawn timber of differing sizes" had broken free from the ship prior to and during her sinking.

"Plans for the recovery of oil and cargo from the wreck," the latest MCA press release on the incident states, "are being developed by the owners, however the recovery may prove technically difficult. Currently no new timber has surfaced, but a sheen of oil is coming from the wreck and is currently dispersing within three miles . . . The Salvage Control Unit at Portland MRCC is being suspended until salvage operations on the wreck start." Apparently, the owners/insurers of the Ice Prince appointed DRS as the company to arrange for the recovery of the timber that washes ashore, which the MCA expected to begin "over the next few days" and to "stretch along the south coast, eastwardly from Beachy Head."

Additionally, as stated by the MCA, the Greek Maritime Authority is responsible for the accident investigation, the "Secretary Of States Representative for Maritime Intervention and Salvage (SOSREP) continues liaison with the French PREFET MARITIME," and the Environment Group continues ". . . to monitor the situation." The latest MCA update on the Ice Prince concludes: "The Maritime and Coastguard Agency Receiver of Wreck has been in discussion with the Police and has authorised them to operate on her behalf. SOSREP is holding a meeting this afternoon with local authorities and police forces from Hampshire, Sussex and Kent and the Environment Groups in Sussex and Kent are now being briefed."

For the latest information on these three maritime incidents, as well as other in the UK, see the MCA's Web site: www.mcga.gov.uk.