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Home* News and Stories → Fishing vessel Northguider still on the ground in Hinlopen Strait

Fishing vessel Northguider still on the ground in Hinlopen Strait

All visitors and friends of this website and its author a happy new year! The transition from 2018 to 2019 was calm in Longyearbyen – with some of the usual fireworks, of course. The Sysselmannen just had to step in at a little fight at Huset, other than that New Year’s eve went on peacefully in Spitsbergen.

But the fishing vessel Northguider will keep people busy for some time. Northguider ran aground in Hinlopen Strait last Friday. All 14 crew members could soon be rescued by helicopter, but the ship itself remains just where it hit the ground south of Murchisonfjord. The position of the vessel seems to be stable so far and no diesel or other environmentally dangerous liquids seem to have escaped from the hull, at least as far as can be seen from a helicopter. Nobody has been in the scene so far, the coast guard ship KV Svalbard is expected to arrive there the next days. The first priority will be to remove diesel and other liquids that would damage the environment. The next step will be an assessment whether the ship is able to float so it can be pulled off and towed to Longyearbyen. Northguider’s own engine can not be expected to be functional anymore as seawater has entered the engine room.

Ideally, KV Svalbard can first pump off oil etc. and then tow Northguider to a safe harbour. Whether this will work remains to be seen.

The whole operation may be complicated drastically by ice, in any way it is likely to be a race against time: there is always the risk that the grounded ship slips off and sinks in deeper water. And then there is the ice. Even in times of climate-change-related negative records of arctic sea ice cover and a very slow ice development in the early polar night, the drift ice is now coming from the north and the coastal waters start to freeze over locally, as illustrated by a quick glance at the ice chart.

Just a few weeks ago, all of Svalbard was completely ice-free. But things are currently changing quickly. If Northguider becomes trapped in ice, all further operations would be much more difficult if not impossible. A lot will depend on the weather and currents during the next days and possibly weeks.

Eiskarte Svalbard

Today’s ice chart from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute: the drift ice is on the way and the fjords are freezing.

Meanwhile politicians in Oslo are starting to ask questions. Shrimp trawling is permitted in deeper waters also in Svalbard’s nature reserves – the site of the Northguide accident is within the boundaries of the Northeast Svalbard Nature Reserve – and trawlers operate in remote areas year-round. The question of the safety of fishing in these areas, far away from harbours and SAR facilities, will receive some new attention now.

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last modification: 2019-01-02 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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