On March 1, the fishing trawler Nieuwpoort 28 (N28) capsized twenty miles off the French/Belgian coast. It was upside-down in the water and the French and Belgian Coastguards mobilised a Search & Rescue operation during which Navy divers searched the vessel but were unable to find any of the trawler’s three crew members – two brothers and their brother-in-law, all from the close-knit Zeeland fishing community.

Multraship, which was awarded the salvage contract, mobilised its Multratug 18, which held water in position while air was pumped into the trawler to keep it afloat. The initial plan had been to tow the trawler to shallow water near Flushing to parbuckle it with the Cormorant. But when clearance could not be obtained from the Belgian authorities to enter their waters with the capsized-but-floating tow, the Cormorant had to be mobilised to the site of the casualty.

The Cormorant arrived at the site on the night of March 4 and, after divers had inspected the casualty overnight, slings were prepared on the next tide and the trawler was parbuckled on March 5. The Nieuwpoort 28 was then pumped dry, whereafter a search failed to locate the missing crew members.

By this time the weather had deteriorated to such an extent that it was not possible to get the trawler out of the slings and safely break up the Cormorant’s four-point mooring system. Subsequently it was decided it would be safer to wait for a better weather window and transport the trawler to Flushing in the Cormorant’s slings, under tow by Multratug 18. On March 7, the convoy arrived at Flushing, where the slings were removed, and the trawler was subsequently towed to Multraship’s home port of Terneuzen, where it was redelivered to its owners. An investigation into the cause of the accident is currently under way.

Photos courtesy Peter Buteijn via Picasa

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