Alarm in Cherbourg n°2

23 Mar 2015

Flying the flag of Saint-Vincent-et-Grenadines, the Serval, a tugboat built in 1977, is arriving at Cherbourg. In January 2015, the most recent inspection of the Serval in the port of Gdynia in Poland revealed eleven deficiencies. This precarious state has been noted for the past eight years. In 2007, the Serval had been detained in Denmark with 23 deficiencies.

The Serval is not coming to Cherbourg to be demolished. It’s in the port in Normandy to tow an old, abandoned tuna boat that has been stuck in the wharf since the summer of 2007. It will be towing into the risks and perils of the sea. The Marginella, built in 1985, measures 55 meters in length. Its operating crew comprises 25 sailors. It belongs to the Soviet tuna fishing fleet. It is the last survivor of eleven units of tuna seiners from the Tibiya project, built between 1980 and 1986 with the exception of Tibiya, which was converted into a service boat in the Caspian Sea.

The Marginella and its Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian crew left from Kaliningrad and headed toward the South Atlantic to fish tropical tuna. In the North Sea and off the shore of the Isle of Wight, two fires in the engine room stinted the propulsion of the tuna boat, and the Marginella, as a last resort and despite the reserves of its owner, was towed for evident security reasons into the port of Cherbourg by the Abeille Liberté; the bill for this towing, reaching 400,000 euros, having not yet been paid. At the same time, two tuna seiners belonging to the same owner were seized in Ghana for unpaid debts.

Today much more so than before, the Marginella is in an advanced dilapidated state. All of its fishing tackles, skiff, seine and derrick are still on board. In seven years, the wreck has been the victim of ingresses of water and firefighters had to intervene. The owner of the Marginella, Atlanttralflot, based in Kaliningrad, seems to no longer have any ships; he sold the last of his units to some Chinese companies.

The destination of the Serval-Marginella convoy is, at the moment, unknown. One year ago, Robin des Bois recommended that the vessel be destroyed in Cherbourg. The maritime authority of the port said that, in its opinion, the Marginella would eventually be able to leave Cherbourg after being cleared for navigation by a classification company worthy of its name, after the payment of debts and the official authorization of the Maritime Prefecture. Whatever the length of the trip imposed on the Marginella – Belgium in the best case scenario; Lithuania in the worst – the Marginella risks sinking while onroute and scattering a net of a length of several hundred meters, dozens of buoys, rolls of rope and other non-biodegradable and buoyant materials in the Channel and the North and Baltic Seas. At the bottom of the sea, the Marginella would be an underwater polluted site, full of asbestos, oils and toxic paints.

In addition to the maritime security issues, the reasons for which the owner of the Marginella or other interests want to recuperate the wreck are mysterious. It could be that the fishing tackle and other equipment specific to tuna fishing might be reused on pirate tuna boats off the coast of Africa or that the eventual fishing quotas accorded to the former tuna boat might be subject to obscure haggling.

Marginella_2007_robin-des-boisSeptember 16, 2007 © Brunoh/Shipspotting

Marginella_25-2-2015_robin-des-boisFebruary 25, 2015 © Robin des Bois


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