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22.11.07 12:24
Marine Engineering Bureau ERS's actions on tragic Sunday of November, 11


Revised Annex I of MARPOL 73/78 entered into force on the 1st January 2007. Rule 37.4 of this Annex specifies that all oil tankers of 5000 tons deadweight or more shall have prompt access to computerized, shore-based damage stability and residual structural strength calculation programs.
 
Such Emergency Response Service (ERS MEB) was created by Marine Engineering Bureau (Russian Maritime Register of Shipping Type Approval Certificate No. 06.02627.010 dated 30.11.2006). ERS MEB have acted several times in this period.
 
From November, 11 till today ERS MEB takes part in the works with "Volgoneft-139" and "Volgoneft-123" due to RF Federal Agency of Maritime and River Transport order. Aims of this works are providing the securing of "Volgoneft-139" crew and eliminating further environment pollution by masout from this vessel and from "Volgoneft-123".
 
By the end of November, 10 the weather in the region of Kerch channel started to deteriorate sharply, the wind became stronger, wind speed was 30-35 m/s, storm with roughness started, waves' height reached 6-7 m at shallow water.
 
After receiving storm warning the most part of vessels that were in the region of 450 and 451 anchorages (southern part of Kerch channel) left towards anchorages in Azov Sea (about 46 vessels in total).
 
E.g., Palmali company sent the warning to its vessels on November, 9. Another companies ("Donrechflot", "Severo-Zapadnoe parokhodstvo", "Belomorsko-Onezhskoe Parokhodstvo", "Volgoflot", "Albros", "Navigator", etc.) assume the appropriate measures.
 
Several vessels and barge-tug train stayed at 450 and 451 anchorages, moreover almost all of them (except dry-cargo vessel "Vol'nogorsk") were to the north of mentioned anchorages, closer to the spit Tuzla, at a depth of 8-9 m.
 
Anchorage N450 is located at a distance 4.2 miles to the west of cape Tuzla. Depths are about 10 m; soil is silt, sand, cockle-shell. Anchorage is avaible for vessels with draught of 6.0 m.
 
Anchorage N451 is located at a distance 2.1 miles to the south-east of cape Tuzla and is used by large-capacity special-purpose vessels and vessels with dangerous goods. Depths are about 11-12.8 m; soil is silt, sand, cockle-shell.
 
In Anchorage N451 region places for tankers are set at points:
 
N1 - 45°09,28'N, 36°33,33'E - for storage vessel;
 
N2 - 45°09,45'N, 36°32,76'E - for masout vessels;
 
N3 - 45°09,80'N, 36°32,57'E - for masout vessels and for dry-cargo vessels with bulk cargo;
 
N4 - 45°09,46'N, 36°33,85'E;
 
N5 - 45°09,80'N, 36°34,03'E.
 
This sailing region (Azov Sea and Kerch channel up to southern part, including anchorage with coordinates 45°06'N and 36°33'E) is classified by existing RRR Rules for planned all-the-year-round operation of cargo self-propelled vessels of "M-PR" and "O-PR" classes.
 
Storm wind and roughness didn't allow the crews left at vessels' anchorage to reach the forecastle to weigh anchor. It was impossible to reach anchor gearing.
 
Vessels and barges were turned counter to waves and were moving toward Tuzla spit.
 
In conditions of force 7 storm hull of tanker "Volgoneft 139" broke in area of fr. 96, practically in front of transverse bulkhead on fr. 97 (fore bulkhead of cargo tanks 5 and 6).
 
Tanker "Volgoneft 139" (prj. 550A, RRR register number is of 161690) was delivered on 01.07.78 in Bulgaria (building number is of 74). The vessel belongs to CJSC "Sudokhodnaya kompaniya "BashVolgotanker". Tanker was loaded by 4130 tons of masout about. RRR class is of M-PR 2.0.
 
3% probability wave height for sailing in permitted sea regions and M-PR region is not bigger than 2.0 m. Last classification survey was passed on 18.10.2007. The vessel had no renovation certificate.
 
1100-1300 tons of masout leaked out in the sea due to vessel's breaking.
 
Tanker aft part (including crew) stayed afloat with working main and auxiliary engines. Thanks to qualified crew's actions the explosion was prevented, as all damaged conductor lines were deenergized in proper time.
 
Anchored vessel's fore part was staying afloat for some time.
 
Tanker aft was moving to the Tuzla spit. The crew kept the vessel from turning abeam to the wave with help of engines' work.
 
Breaking happened at the night between 10 and 11 of November at about 4.45 (Moscow time).
 
It was impossible to evacuate the crew (13 persons) from tanker "Volgoneft 139" in safe mode: tugs couldn't moor because of roughness, and helicopters couldn't fly up because of wind.
 
ERS MEB members received emergency call at 08.30 on November, 11. They arrived to their working places in 40 minutes (while standard is of 2 hours) and started discharge of their duties.
 
ERS MEB has at its disposal a set of software complexes that allows to carry out damage stability and residual structural strength calculations and estimations of oil leakage during collisions, groundings, construction breakages, fires, explosions etc. when emergency alternation of loading and/or hull loading ability take place.
 
Aim of this work was operational estimation of condition of floating aft part of the "Volgoneft 139" tanker. Also damage trim and stability calculations such as residual strength calculations have been carried out.
 
The chief task was to define what and when would be able to threaten the crew members. Crew members could leave the vessels only by using dropped life rafts. Accordingly there was high chance that crew members may suffered and even perish because people rising from the ice-cold water during the storm couldn't be quick; salvage tug-boats dealt with drift towards split hardly.
 
Initial information about place of hull breakage was uncertain so calculations were carried out for two breakage models (tanks 3-4 and tanks5-6) with taking into consideration existence/absence of water in the ballast tanks of double bottom and double sides. Danger of progressive flooding after transverse bulkhead breakage was estimated.
 
Estimations carried out by ERS MEB showed that tanker's crewmembers could stay onboard the vessel. This results were forwarded to the Salvage Coordination Center of RF Minister of Transport and crew members were taken from the vessel's part at more safe weather in the evening of November, 11.
 
Besides "Volgoneft-139" another vessel "Volgoneft-123" was under risk of destruction in the same region.
 
Tanker "Volgoneft 123" (prj. 550A, RRR register number is of 161651) was delivered on 01.07.75 in Bulgaria (building number is of 58). The vessel belongs to CJSC "Sudokhodnaya kompaniya "BashVolgotanker". Tanker was loaded by 4077 tons of masout about. RRR class is of M-PR 2.5.
 
3% probability wave height for sailing in permitted sea regions and M-PR region is not bigger than 2.5 m. The vessel had no renovation certificate.
 
Signs of hull breakage at two sections (fr.97 and fr.147-148) have appeared while being on the anchorage at the situation of force 7 storm. Shell of the upper deck had got deformations in form of smooth dents and bulges. Deformations increased in transverse direction progressively. Height of deformations was of 30-100 mm. Cracks were found in the zone of deck buckling failure.
 
There was sagging of the vessel's hull so cracks openings were insignificant and was no cargo leakage.
 
Crew was succeeded to weigh anchor and to sail to the more calm place for the beginning and then finally to the port of Caucasus.
 
At the zone of deformations on the fr.147-148 at the CL two cracks were found. First crack was of cross-form with dimensions of 300x300 mm and with opening up to 8 mm. Second crack was of 60 mm length with opening of 0.5 mm. Two more cracks of 300 mm and 60 mm length were found on the II belt of StB at fr. 148. Longitudinal corrugated bulkhead was deformed and there was buckling failure of underdeck girders with horizontal deflection up to 25 mm.
 
Transverse corrugation (fr.147-148) was stopped by two longitudinal laid on plates which were mounted during ship repair. This laid on plates were arranged onto deck stringer from aft superstructure till practically midship.
 
In the deformation zone two cracks of 150 mm (opening of 1 mm) and 60 mm length (opening 0.5 mm) were found on the III belt of StB at fr. 97.
 
On the November 13 Vessel successfully reload masout into mv "Volgoneft 249" in the safe region of Caucasus port. Reloading process was previously calculated by MEB. Given recommendation told order of cargo operations and ballasting in the view of vessel's hull safety due to serious damages at two vessel's sections. Big hogging could result in increasing of longitudinal members buckling failure zone. From the other side big sagging could result in huge crack opening.
 
On the November 20 MEB designed project of mv "Volgoneft-123" towage without crew to the nearest repairing base. Measures due to decreasing loads onto damage sections have been taken. Optimal ballasting was proposed in order to decrease hull bending moments practically down to zero. Recommendations due to stopping crack growth were made. There was no cargo onboard, Stores of fuel oil and lub oil were minimal. Project grounding was approved by Head Office of Russian River Registry.
 
On the November, 11 some more vessels except "Voloneft-139" sank in the same region of the Kerch channel due to hull watertight failure:
 
- dry cargo vessel "Volnogorsk", prj. 21-88, RRR register number is 140252, was delivered on 30.03.65 in Slovakia (building number is 2044). There was about 2380 tons of Sulphur onboard. RRR class is of O-PR 2.0.
 
3% probability wave height for sailing in permitted sea regions and O-PR region is not bigger than 2.0 m. The vessel had no renovation certificate.
 
- dry cargo vessel "Nakhichevan", prj. 21-88, RRR register number is 140283, was delivered on 24.09.66 in Slovakia (building number is 2066). There was about 2366 tons of Sulphur onboard. RRR class is of M-PR 2.5.
 
3% probability wave height for sailing in permitted sea regions and M-PR region is not bigger than 2.5 m. The vessel had no renovation certificate.
 
- dry cargo vessel "Kovel", prj. 576, RRR register number is 21521, was delivered on 30.03.65 in Slovakia (building number is 2044). There was about 2380 tons of Sulphur onboard. RRR class is of O-PR 2.0.
 
3% probability wave height for sailing in permitted sea regions and O-PR region is not bigger than 2.0 m. The vessel had no renovation certificate.
 
Vessels of prj. 21-88 couldn't weight the anchor and had perished on the anchorage. Due to disposed information the main reason of perish was hatch covers removed by the storm with following cargo holds filling by water and vessels' floatage failure. "Volnogorsk" sank at 10:37 and "Nakhichevan" sank at about 14:00 on the November 11.
 
On mv "Nakhichevan" firstly hatch covers of hold No.3 have shifted but crew restored their position and fastened them by lashes. After that hatche covers from holds No.1 and 2 were removed by storm and it become impossible to control the process of water income to the holds.
 
Mv "Kovel" perished after collision with "Volnogorsk" which have sank till this moment. Vessel's hull had got shell-hole of 30 sq.m and with it vessel sailed about 15 nm. During this 15 nm trip crew have carried out survivability fighting. Vessel sank near Crimea shore.
 
All crew members from "Volnogorsk" and "Kovel" were rescued.
 
Only 3 persons from "Nakhichevan" crew kept alive. 4 persons have perished and 4 other ones are still missed.
 
On November 14 cargo partly unloading from aft part of "Volgoneft-139" was carried out. Then this aft part of the vessel was towage to the port of Caucasus. ERS MEB affected operate checking of trim, stability and overall strength of the vessel including strength of transverse bulkheads.
 
At the port of Caucasus vessel's aft part was surrounded by booms to avoid masouts pollution. On the November 16 at the berth No.25 of the port of Caucasus 913 tons of masout were discharged from aft part of "Volgoneft-139" to "Volgoneft-119".
 
During the storm of November 11, except damaged or perished vessels at the region of the Kerch channel there was mv "Vera Voloshina" that was thrown onto the shore near Sulak. This vessel is of 155 prj. (Sormovskiy type), RS class is of IISP (3% probability wave height is of 6 m). After grounding vessel's hull broke into two pieces. Crew members didn't suffer.
 
In region of the port of Sevastopol oceangoing dry cargo vessel "Hash Ismail" perished (Georgian flag, Syrian crew), 12 persons were missed.
 
In the region of the port of Novorossiysk oceangoing dry cargo vessels "Zia Koss" (Turkish flag and crew) and "Captain Ismail" (Georgian flag, Syrian crew) were thrown onto the shore.
 
Several vessels and barges touched ground without significant damages.
 
Works due to looking for missed persons and combating with oil pollution hadn't stopped at any weather conditions.
 
On the November 15-16 an operative plan of rising of the fire part of "Volgoneft-139" was designed with participation of ERS MEB. Unfortunately bad weather conditions didn't permit divers to fulfill diving.
 
Works due negotiation the fall-outs of storm impacts are continued.
 
Usually round the year winds in the range NW - NE prevail in the region of Kerch channel. This wind are of no wave-dangerous directions because there is very small distance for acceleration so dangerous waves in the south part of Kerch channel are absent.
 
Wave-dangerous directions for south part of Kerch channel are south ones which are very rare for this region. Totally for whole year calculated wind speed is of 13 m/s with long-term probability of 5%.
 
Storm on November 11 was followed by south wind with speed of 35 m/s. This circumstance together with small water depth of anchorage places made precondition for appearing of "breaking" waves of 6-7 m height in front of Tuzla Split.
 
Thus, due to opinion of MEB specialists, the main reason of such huge tragedy is uncommon natural phenomenon and our sailors dealt with it.