RNLI APPLEDORE AND ILFRACOMBE TOW 300-TON MS OLDENBURG TO SAFETY

The volunteer crews of both the RNLI Appledore all weather Tamar class lifeboat Mollie Hunt and RNLI Ilfracombe all-weather Shannon class lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation were launched on Saturday 6 April following reports that the Lundy ferry MS Oldenburg had suffered a mechanical breakdown at Lundy Island.

The RNLI Appledore lifeboat was launched at 5.20pm, and the RNLI Ilfracombe lifeboat crew launched approximately half an hour later, with both lifeboats arriving at Lundy around 6.45pm. The weather was moderate with a fresh easterly wind and small waves.

On arrival at Lundy both lifeboat Coxswains assessed the situation and discussed the appropriate course of action with the Master of the MS Oldenburg and the Coastguard agency. At this point the MS Oldenburg was secured to the jetty and the passengers had been removed from the ship and were safely ashore, leaving seven crew members on board. A commercial tug had been requested and was underway from Pembrokeshire, however this was not scheduled to arrive until around midnight. There was some concern that the weather was forecast to change over the next few hours before the tug was due to arrive, with stronger winds and tide which could potentially cause damage to the ship.

Following this consultation the Ilfracombe lifeboat crew secured a tow line, which was left slack, to the stern of the MS Oldenburg as a precaution, in case the weather worsened and both lifeboats then stood off ready to assist if necessary and to await the arrival of the tug. The tug arrived just after midnight and Ilfracombe lifeboat was stood down and returned to station at 2.15am. Appledore lifeboat remained on scene whilst the tug towed the MS Oldenburg off the jetty stern first, and then secured the tow from the front of the ferry. Once the tow was underway Appledore RNLI returned to station, arriving on their mooring at around 4am, with the crew home at 4.45am.

Carl Perrin, RNLI Volunteer Coxswain for Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboat, says, “The lifeboats stood by prepared to act if required if the weather had deteriorated. However, fortunately the wind did not increase as forecast. Before the tug arrived the sea conditions around the jetty due to the tidal state were starting to worsen as the depth of water under the vessels was reducing on the ebb tide. The RNLI Appledore and Ilfracombe lifeboat volunteer teams worked together to provide assistance the MS Oldenburg.”

The RNLI Ilfracombe lifeboat was launched again at 7.25am on Sunday 7 April to assist the MS Oldenburg into port at Ilfracombe. The two all weather lifeboats currently at station, The Barry and Peggy High Foundation and the relief Shannon class Stormrider were launched to help the tug bring the MS Oldenburg safely into the harbour. The lifeboats secured lines to the stern of the MS Oldenburg and helped slow and control the vessel as she came into the harbour. RNLI Ilfracombe volunteer shore crew helped to secure the MS Oldenburg into her berth.

RNLI Coxswain Leigh Hanks says, “This was a big team effort from the station. Some of the crew had only returned to station at 2.15am and had only got to bed at 3.45am before they were paged again to assist at 7.25am. Conditions for bringing the MS Oldenburg back into port were testing with a fresh easterly wind and the fact that the ship weighs almost 300 tons. The crew train extensively for situations like this and we do take part in joint training with the MS Oldenburg in case of emergencies as we are her home port.”

Later the same day RNLI Ilfracombe were requested to launch to Lundy Island again, to evacuate an individual who required medication who had been stranded on the island overnight. The Ilfracombe lifeboat launched at 3.45pm and arrived at the Island at 4.30pm. The lifeboat returned to station at 6pm, bringing back the individual for whom the evacuation was requested and a further five people including two individuals who were scheduled for surgery in the next 48 hours and a surgeon from a local hospital. Arrangements are being made by the owners of the MS Oldenburg to bring back the remaining passengers.

PHOTO: The MS Oldenburg being towed into Ilfracombe harbour with Ilfracombe lifeboats assisting.