Thursday, December 16, 2010

Korean fishing vessel sinks in Southern Ocean

ASOC was saddened to hear that a Korean fishing vessel sunk this week in the Southern Ocean, leaving an estimated 22 people dead. Some survivors were rescued, but the others had entered the water without survival gear or immersion suits, meaning there was likely only a short rescue window of ten minutes. It's quite unclear what happened, but it must have been very serious. The weather and water were calm, but the ship apparently didn't even have time to send out a distress call (or don survival gear) before the sinking, indicating an urgent situation. Fortunately, ships were nearby and able to join the search and pull some of the crew out of the water.

This incident is apparently the latest in a string of fishing vessel accidents (not to mention problems with tourist vessels, such as the problems recently experienced by the Clelia II), and the New Zealanders are not happy. The area where this ship sank is the New Zealand search and rescue area, and it sounds like officials there are starting to question why they have to deal with so many problems. They are right to do so - the crews on these vessels deserve to be protected, particularly when in the treacherous Southern Ocean. It shouldn't be New Zealand's responsibility, but that of the ship owners. Ensuring that safety rules are followed protects people and the environment. But maybe some ship owners don't have a problem risking other people's lives.

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