Monday, January 24, 2011

They were only playing leapfrog

Events in the Okhotsk Sea crisis are moving apace, with TASS reporting that the Bereg Nadezhdy fish carrier "has been led by two icebreakers from the ice area to clear water." Now the Admiral Makarov and Krasin icebreakers are returning to the Sodruzhestvo factory ship "in order to guide the vessel to ice-free waters."

This looks quite promising. An earlier bulletin set the scene, telling us that the icebreakers were leading the fish carrier to "ice-free waters" and had covered 12 of the 38 miles to the ice edge, over the past 24 hours. Then Ria Novosti issued a bullish report relaying an announcement from a spokesman for Russia's Federal Fishing Agency.

Said Alexander Savelev, the Bereg Nadezhdy had been successfully towed to clear water. "The refrigerator vessel is out of danger," he said. "In the next few hours, after refuelling, the icebreakers will return for the Sodruzhestvo mother fishery ship."

He added that the weather conditions were favourable for the rescue operation, with temperatures of -14°C. "The crew is alive and healthy, although during the operation a sailor had to be evacuated from one of the icebreakers with suspected appendicitis," Savelev also said.

In the early afternoon here (in England at the time of writing), it is close to midnight in the Okhotsk Sea, and operations no doubt will be scaling down. In the morning it is hoped that we will be seeing the final, final stage of the rescue, that has already seen its fair share of false dawns.

What is interesting though is that, throughout the operation, diverse spokespersons have been stressing that the ships were in no danger. With Alexander Savelev now telling us that the Bereg Nadezhdy is "out of danger," we can only draw our own conclusions as to the veracity of the previous statements.