Dramatic rescue in Icelandic waters

The Icelandic Coastguard yesterday faced a stiff challenge when a large cargo ship lost its rudder off the country’s southeast coast and narrowly avoided washing up on the shore.

The ship, Alma, is registered in Cyprus, operated by a Norwegian freight company and is crewed by 14 Ukrainians and two Russians. It is carrying 3,000 tonnes of frozen seafood.

Alma lost her rudder when sailing into Hornafjordur in the early hours of yesterday morning and the listless ship was soon in serious danger. The tugboat Hoffell from Faskrudsfjordur happened to be nearby and was called to action by the Coastguard command centre in Reykjavik, according to RUV. Hoffell managed to get a towline onto the vessel, which is 4,000 tonnes when unloaded.

Hoffell towed Alma further out to sea and set off in the direction of the port Reydarfjordur in the East Fjords. After two hours, however, the towline snapped and the freighter floated free once again, RUV reports.

The Coastguard were on high alert all day, sending helicopters to observe and both of its available cruisers to help — including the brand new Thor on its first rescue mission. A Coastguard steersman was also airlifted aboard. As hoped for, neither Coastguard cruiser arrived on time to help. They were sent out from Reykjavik purely in case something went wrong.

The crew of the tugboat tried for hours to get another line over, but only succeeded in mid afternoon. Once on the move again it was hoped that Alma would be safely in Reydarfjordur sometime early last night before predicted bad weather closed in. The Coastguard would take no chances, however — remaining on high alert in the event of another mishap.

Due to worsening weather the captain of the tug requested permission to divert to Faskrudsfjordur instead and the arduous journey did not end until around 03.30. At 04.00 this morning the Coastguard reported hearing a radio message of thanks from Alma to Hoffell. The message was described as “meek”.

(Photos: Icelandic Coastguard)