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Yearly Archives: 2019 − News & Stories


More than 300 tons of diesel recovered from grounded trawler Northguider

Good news from the shrimp trawler “Northguider” that ran aground close to the coast of Nordaustland in northern Hinlopen on 28 December, 2018: more than 300 tons of diesel were successfully recovered until Sunday morning in an operation that took several days. The work was carried out by the Dutch specialised company Ardent Global and the Norwegian coastguard, on the coastguard ship KV Svalbard, as the Norwegian broadcasting company NRK reports.

332 tons of marine diesel oil were secured on KV Svalbard until Sunday morning 5 a.m. Such a huge amount of fuel in a sensitive high arctic environment, during a season when the drift ice can approach quickly or the water can freeze locally at any time, could have created a major environmental disaster.

Shrimp trawler Northguider on ground in Hinlopen Strait

Recovery work at the shrimp trawler Northguider. Photo: Kystverket/Küstenwache.

The operation went faster than expected. The cold, but stable weather conditions of the weekend were an important part in the efficient process to secure the diesel comppletely, and so was the hard work of the Dutch specialists and the crew of the coast guard along with other authorities involved (Sysselmannen, Kystverket).

Shrimp trawler Northguider: Diesel secured

More than 300 tons of diesel were secured until Sunday morning from the shrimp trawler Northguider, which is grounded in Hinlopen Strait. Photo: Kystverket/Küstenwache.

Smaller amounts of lubrication oil and other chemicals are still being secured, as well as other loose items that may harm or litter the environment.

Salvaging the ship itself is a totally different question. This will be a major operation. How and when this will be done is currently an open question.

The owner of Northguider, Opilio AS, is responsible for coverering the costs.

Tempelfjord accident 2017: monetary penalty

In late April 2017, a serious accident happened in Tempelfjord when a group of snow mobile tourists broke through thin ice. Altogether 7 persons suffered injuries, 6 of them were in the water. 4 of these spent up to 48 minutes in the ice-cold water. One of them died some days later in the hospital in Tromsø.

The deceased was working as a guide for the group, who were Russian tourists. The tour was organised by Arctic Travel Company Grumant, a daughter company of the Trust Arktikugol. The Trust Arktikugol owns and runs Barentsburg and the coal mine there. As employer of the guide and owner of the tour operator, the Trust Arktikugol is legally finally responsible.

Some years ago, the Trust started to develop tourism in Barentsburg to add new economical activities to coal mining, which will obviously not last forever.

In connection to the Tempelfjord accident in 2017, the Arctic Travel Company Grumant and hence the Trust Arktikugol are accused of not having established sufficient safety routines for travelling on sea ice including fjord ice. No ice thickness measurements or other means of establishing sufficient safety margins were taken before the group went out on the ice on the fatal trip in 2017.

Due to the fatal outcome of the accident, which caused 7 persons to end up in ice water and one of them to die later, the state advocate Troms (north Norway) has now imposed a fine of NOK 150,000 (currently ca. Euro 15,300 or US-$ 17,700). The Trust Arktikugol has accepted the fine.

Tempelfjord accident 2017: monetary fine

Glacierfront of Tunabreen in Tempelfjord: a popular day trip, but the ice can be dangerous.

The glacier front of Tunabreen in Tempelfjord is the highlight of a popular day trip in the late winter, but the fjord ice is not as reliable anymore as it used to be and the classical route does not always work anymore. In 2018, the ice conditions were good in Tempelfjord, but in the main season the fjord ice was closed by the Sysselmannen for motorised traffic to avoid disturbance of seals and polar bears who were often seen in that area then.

Storm- and avalanche warnings in Longyearbyen

The weather forecast for the next 2 days promises storm and snow for Longyearbyen. The highest wind speeds are expected for Thursday night with velocities up to 26 metres per second (90 km/h or 60 mph, force 10 on the Beaufort scale).

These conditions mean that there will be a very high risk of avalanches.

Public institutions such as schools will remain closed and houses in several areas in Longyearbyen will be evacuated from Thursday 8 a.m. This concerns houses in way 228 and on the west side of the road in Nybyen, according to orders issued by the Sysselmannen. More than 100 persons are concerned by these evacuations.

Longyearbyen storm and avalanche warnings

Weather forecast according to yr.no for Longyearbyen: Storm, snow and avalanche risk.

Everybody is requested to take due precautions and to stay away from areas exposed to avalanche risk.

Northguider still grounded in Hinlopenstretet

The trawler Northguider is still sitting on ground at Sparreneset in Hinlopenstretet. Photos taken by Kystverket, the Norwegian maritime authority, show that the position of the ship is very close to the coast of Nordaustland. In this area, the sea bottom is falling steeply from shallow waters down to 400 metres in Hinlopenstretet. It is not yet known how Northguider could get into this position. It is said that there were no technical problems before the accident.

The coast guard ship KV Svalbard has been on site and completed the first phase is work, which was assessing the actual situation of the disabled vessel. After an initial period with weather too bad to go near the grounded ship, specialists of coast guard and Kystverket have been on board Northguider, which is still listing with 15 degrees, but seems to be stable, at least so far. No leakage has be observed so far. Northguider has 300 tons of diesel on board. Many smaller items that have negative environmental potential such as batteries, paint, fishing gear etc. were removed.

Fishing trawler Northguider grounded in Hinlopenstretet

Fishing trawler Northguider grounded in Hinlopenstretet, close to the coast of Nordaustland. Photo: Kystverket.

The investigations also made clear that the ship is too strongly damaged to be pulled of the growned. First, the diesel needs to be removed before an attempt can be made to get Northguider floating again.

KV Svalbard has returned to Longyearbyen to pick up the necessary equipment. The Kystverket assumes that the salvage will take considerable time.

Meanwhile, questions are asked why fishing vessels are allowed to operate in the polar night – or at any time – in areas sensitive enough that even the presence of tourists is seen as a problem by some because they might step on a flower or wake up a sleeping walrus. The grounding site is within the boundaries of the Northeast Svalbard Nature Reserve. Morten Wegede, environmental adviser of the Sysselmannen, said that the situation was very unfortunate and that protection of the environment has highest priority. To ensure this, the Sysselmannen is working closely together with the coast guard, Kystverket, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the owner of Northguider.

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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News-Listing live generated at 2021/January/24 at 10:26:07 Uhr (GMT+1)
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