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Temporary exclusion zone around Torquay wreck extends 500 metres

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

  • HAZARD: Sonar images of the sunken ship Emsstrom on the seabed off Hope's Nose and a marker buoy PHOTOS: Trinity House.

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A NAVIGATIONAL warning has been issued to help sailors avoid the wrecked Emsstrom.

The Secretary of State's representative has issued a 'notice of direction to establish a temporary exclusion zone' in a radius of 500m around the 80m long shipwreck, now on the seabed about a mile off Hope's Nose in Torquay.

The position of the German naval training vessel, which sank in 25 metres of water with just nine metres clearance, has been marked on seafaring charts issued to all mariners.

And it has been reported that the Emsstrom may have already been listing at 25 degrees when she was towed into the Bay by the tug Christos XXII.

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Pip Hall, coastguard sector manager said: "I understand that the captain of the Christos asked Brixham coastguard if they could come in to shelter because his tow was listing at five degrees.

"However later we were told that it was not at five degrees but more like 25 degrees."

The exclusion notice also gives more detail about last week's collision which resulted in a dramatic rescue mission after the Christos was rammed by the Emsstrom and nearly sank with eight men on board, with the threat of a 200 tonne diesel oil spillage across the Bay.

The notice says: "While shortening the tow line the Emsstrom was involved in a collision with the towing vessel and subsequently sank."

The position is given as 50 degrees 28.12 north by 033 degrees 24.88 west.

The Secretary of State's representative said: "Salvage activities are currently taking place on the derelict Emsstrom. These operations will include the deployment of large tugs and other vessels for the purpose of working on the casualty."

Mr Hall added: "This notice is effectively a warning to all divers and others who may want to dive the site or take salvage.

"It is a new wreck and divers may be tempted to explore it but if they do so then they may fall foul of the law."

The vessel went down on Monday, January 14, after an air sea rescue operation to lift the crew from the Christos XXII, which had been towing the Emsstrom to Turkey for scrap.

Coastguards and the Royal Navy raced to stop 200 tonnes of diesel leaking from the tug boat. Their efforts have been praised by Jean Bradford MBE, founder of the South Devon Seabird Trust.

She said: "We were on standby when news broke and breathed a sigh of relief that the tug, with 200 tonnes of diesel on board, had been towed to safety.

"That amount of diesel would certainly have spelled disaster for sealife.

"Diesel is very oily and light and is difficult to remove from affected birds.

"Because of its fumes we have to keep them well ventilated when we would usually aim to keep the birds warm.

"I don't know how many birds are in the area at the moment but looking at old charts it appears that their popular feeding ground at this time of year is exactly where that boat sunk."

A specialist survey sonar image (pictured) shows she has sunk upright and with only nine metres of clearance which means she is a hazard to shipping.

Skipper Rick Parker from the professional dive boat, Jennifer Ann, said divers have already expressed interest in the wreck.

Torbay Harbours have issued a 'stay away' warning.

Mr Parker said: "It is quite ironic that if I had wanted to sink a ship in the Bay for wreck diving, I would have put it pretty much where it went down.

"It's almost in the perfect location. There has been a lot of interest already from divers wanting to dive this new wreck.

"I don't know if it will be deemed worth salvaging. Especially as it was going for scrap anyway. If it stays on the sea bed we will have to see if it is safe and clean. If it is, it will attract a lot of interest which can only be good for Torbay."

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