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The words reproduced here have circulated round the safety departments of a number of organisations. They describe the loss of a survey ship and the resulting distress suffered by the crew in a delightfully laconic style which almost subversively lets us know how the accident could have been prevented and how at every stage mistakes continued to be made.

The names of the ship, the owner and the client have been removed, but this makes no difference to the strength of the narrative.

It was the Xxxx Xxxxxr Survey Vessel. All got off ok and no injuries. This past Wednesday, the XXX XXXX sank about 300 miles offshore of Iran .

 Around 6AM in about 1 meter seas, the navigator went down to the engine room to lower the UBSL pole, so that we could begin surveying.  The chain used to lower the pole suddenly snapped.  There was no safety chain attached and the flange at the top of the pole, which would have prevented the pole from dropping all the way through the hole flew off.

Therefore, the USBL pole fell 3000 meters down to the bottom of the ocean, leaving a 12 inch hole in the ships hull.  As you can expect, water started flooding the engine room.

 Crew members tried to fit a metal plate over the hole, however this proved to be impossible due to the pressure of the water.  Non-essential personnel, were immediately transferred by FRC to the chase boat.  Meanwhile, the crew continued to try to contain the flooding.

The engines and ship power were quickly shut down, and emergency power was turned on.  The pumps on the OV and the MS proved too small to be effective, so the engine room's watertight door was closed & dogged down.  Unfortunately, this door was not exactly watertight, and water proceeded to flood compartment next to the engine room.

  Meanwhile, MAYDAY calls were issued from both the OV and the MS.  The first to respond was a Coalition Warship, which later turned out to be the USS SEATTLE (AOE 3), a fast combat support ship.  Since it would take a while for the SEATTLE to arrive, a Canadian C-130, and a Japanese helicopter were dispatched to the location.

 These aircraft remained until the end.  Soon, a US helicopter also arrived carrying with it 2 large pumps and a damage control (DC) crew to operate the pumps.  When the equipment and personnel were safely lowered onto the OV, the helo returned to pick up and deliver a third pump. 

 Unfortunately, two of these pumps became clogged with debris, and the DC crew were never able to get them to operate.  The Commanding Officer (CO) on board the SEATTLE was informed by the DC crew the only chance that the OV had to stay afloat was if divers were dispatched to try and repair the hole.

 This solution was rejected by the CO.  As a last ditch effort, a tarp was unfurled over the side and under the keel to try and cover the hole and slow the flooding.  However, this effort proved futile.  Eventually, the SEATTLE arrived on site.  The CO assessed the situation and decided that despite all efforts, the OV was going to be a "long-term loss."  He instructed all crew and instruments to be removed and the ship was then abandoned.  

 When all crew member were onboard the MS, the Captain and Party Chief made one last trip back by FRC to try and release the second towfish (the first was released earlier by FSSI marine techs) and try retrieve whatever personal effects that they could.  Things retrieved included some undergarments, camera, 3 bottles of alcohol, one flip flop (right foot)and one Teva (left foot), various souvenirs.

 However, things such as wallets, house keys, cell phone, address book, and CD's now reside on the bottom of the Arabian Sea .

 It took a few hours before the OV finally sank, but when it happened, she went down by the port bow.

 Afterwards, the MS sailed through the floating debris and was able to retrieve the two towfish, along with the 8 life rafts, which had automatically deployed.  The MS then began a rather rough 16 hour transit to Muscat , Oman .  While the MS was steaming, the crew of the former-OV spent the night consuming the salvaged alcohol, and trying to sleep on spare mattresses, which were placed on the deck for us.

Once we arrived in Oman , it took many hours for officials to take statements and issue visas.  The crew of the OV was then taken to a hotel, where we cleaned up, put on whatever clothes we could find, and went shopping for clothes, shoes, and toiletries.  

 Crew members, who were able to save their money and credit cards, supported those of us who lost everything.  We left Oman very late Thursday night and spent the next 24 hours on airplanes. 

 The Seattle , WA based crew returned home on Saturday afternoon, and we were met at the airport by the president of our company, the Survey Manager, and the Engineering Manager.  One of my co-workers was also met by his family, who flew all the way out from Virginia . I cannot even venture a guess on what will be the repercussions of this event. 

Besides our personal losses, my company lost about US$2 million worth of uninsured gear, including 20 km of fiber optic cable (10 km of which was flaked on the deck in two 5 km pieces due to a previous incident), traction winch, a hydraulic power unit (HPU), and lots of electronic and computer gear.

  Additionally, it is unknown how much of the data, from the survey, was recovered.  I do know that there are already gaggles of lawyers hovering around and I am relatively certain that there will be many lawsuits between my company, our clients and their clients.

 While this was an extremely harrowing experience, I am thankful that everyone was able to safely get off the ship.  I am fully aware that things can be replaced, while people cannot.  We were very lucky that this happened in daylight hours in calm seas.  We were also lucky that we had a chase boat following us and a Navy warship, so close by.





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