A cargo ship with a Vanuatu flag carrying steel has been adrift since today at dawn off the Portuguese coast, after an alert of abrupt water entering the engine room, a Navy source told Lusa.

The same source added that the 14 crew members (seven Turks and seven Georgians) from the crashed Southwester were picked up from the ferry where they were already at half an hour by another nearby merchant ship, the EM Hydra (Liberian flag).

The Lisbon Maritime Search and Rescue Service Center coordinated operations, after receiving the first alert, at 00:36.

“The crew arrived at the port of Leixões at 10:30 am, was observed and sent – even tested to detect covid-19 – and will now make statements to the Maritime Police to understand what happened. The ship, apparently, is still float because it still emits the positioning signal, “explained the Navy source.

The same source said that, with no victims or dangerous cargo, the Portuguese Navy deployed the frigate Álvares Cabral, with divers on board, with direct contact with Southwester scheduled for 6 pm, in order to “investigate the situation and Act accordingly”.

The cargo ship from Vanuatu, which had 40 nautical miles (74 kilometers) off the coast of Figueira da Foz, is now heading southwest, in other words, moving away from the Portuguese mainland, due to sea currents.

The Navy has contacted the Air Force and is considering using an air medium, probably a helicopter, to collect images and other information from Southwester.

This merchant ship was built 22 years ago, is 100 meters long and 16 meters wide, and can carry up to 5,400 tons. It was headed from the French port of Nantes (Montoir) to the Spanish port of Seville.

The port of Figueira da Foz has been without the large capacity lifeboat of the Institute of Aid to Castaways (ISN) Patrão Macatrão for 10 months, used mainly in long-distance rescue.

Speaking to Lusa, in August, captain João Lourenço expressed concern about the vessel’s inoperable condition, revealing that it was out of service in December 2019, due to a broken propeller.


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