Tug, freighter collided at high speed: report

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2008, 12:00am

A tugboat and a freighter involved in a fatal collision in fog off Tuen Mun in March had approached each other at a combined speed of 24.5 knots - enough to produce considerable damage - a Ukrainian investigation found.

The Ukrainian tugboat Neftegaz-67, owned by Ukrainian oil and gas company Chornomornaftogaz, collided with the mainland vessel Yaohai on March 22. The tug sank with the loss of 18 lives.

The Ukrainian Transport and Communications Ministry and Chornomornaftogaz recently conducted a test with similar vessels and conditions in a channel between Russia and Ukraine to study the tugboat's mechanisms and possible last manoeuvres the captain could have taken, the ministry said on Thursday.

The Neftegaz-67 was travelling at 10.5 knots and the Yaohai was doing 14 knots at the moment of the Ukrainian vessel's last manoeuvre, the ministry said.

That meant they approached each other at the sum of their speeds, 24.5 knots, or 45.4km/h, it said.

The vessels' speeds were not unusual, but colliding at those speeds 'would be like hitting a brick wall when travelling at 50mph [80km/h] in a car', said Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners' Association. 'However, that would depend on the amount of give in the steel and whether it's head-on or a glancing blow.'