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24 crewmembers rescued after oil tanker collision

By Zaigham Ali Mirza / 24 March 2004

DUBAI - Twenty-four of the crew on board an oil tanker Everton were rescued on Monday afternoon from their 80,000 tonner vessel which caught fire reportedly after being hit by a fishing vessel some 50 nautical miles off the coast of Oman.

One crewmember is missing.

According to an international shipping weekly Fairplay, some 200 tonnes of oil had been spilled in the incident, and Polembros, the Greece-based owners of the tanker are assessing the impact of the oil spill. "Because it is 50 nautical miles (off the coast) we don't know if it is going to land," David Gare, spokesman for the owner company, was quoted as saying by the weekly's on-line edition. Khaleej Times contacted the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) in London, which, according to the weekly, is assessing the environmental impact of the oil spill, but no comment was immediately available.

The crew was picked up by Hual Asia, a pure car/truck carrier, which is en route to Dubai from Jeddah. A statement issued by Leif Hoegh and Company Shipping, Oslo, which owns the Hual Asia, said that the carrier changed course late morning on Monday, after receiving a distress call on VHF radio channel 16, and proceeded to the distressed vessel.

"Twenty-four crew were picked up by the carrier, eight of whom were later transferred to an American naval vessel, which took over the command from Hual Asia," Per Dynes Jorgensen, Dubai contact for Leif Hoegh and Company Shipping told Khaleej Times. He added that all 24 survivors are reported to be in good condition.

Mr Jorgensen said that the 16 crewmembers presently on board the Hual Asia are headed to Dubai's Port Rashid, where the carrier is expected to arrive around 10 this morning.

Meanwhile, according to the weekly a limited crew will return to the Everton, which is anticipated to be able to make its way to Fujairah under its own power.

The Everton was reportedly hit by a fishing vessel called Ihco, which stayed at the accident site for a short time before leaving the scene, the weekly quoting Mr Gare as saying.

"We don't know why it left and are trying to identify the vessel," he said.

Until reports last came in, a US warship was still on stand-by in the area where the mishap occurred, but hopes for the sole missing crewmember are bleak.


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