Technical and health problems on board the Sevmorput

17 Dec 2020

2:00 pm – press release n°5

From 14 December 2020 at 16:00, when she was off Western Sahara, until yesterday at 22:00, the atomic ship Sevmorput followed an atypical path suggesting difficulties and delays on board. Yesterday, from 20:28 to 20:41, a helicopter from the Salvamento Maritimo sea rescue agency hovered over the ship. The commander of the Sevmorput, who reportedly showed symptoms of meningitis, is said to have been evacuated to the hospital in Las Palmas. There were 98 crew members and technicians on board the ship until then. After this evacuation, the Sevmorput resumed a linear path towards the European continent. In addition to the technical problems, there are now also health problems.

Yesterday in the early afternoon, the NGO Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) sent an alert letter to the European Union Commissioner for Transports, the French Atlantic Maritime Prefect, the Maritime Prefect of the Channel and the North Sea, the Secretary General for the Sea, the Ministers of the Sea and for Ecological Transition and the European Maritime Safety Agency. Among other things, the letter points out that ” Before attempting to reach Antarctica, the Sevmorput entered the shipyard for various repairs and refurbishments including the replacement of the propeller and propeller shaft. The fact that, in unexplained circumstances, a propeller blade was lost leads us to believe that the new propeller is the victim of a hidden defect and that the loss of one or more of the other blades remaining after the intervention off Angola by the Russian divers must be reasonably feared and anticipated.

For now, only the European Commission replied to us: ” we are aware of the situation and actually closely monitoring the vessel with the assistance of and relying on the systems hosted by the European Maritime Safety Agency which as you now offer an excellent situational awareness.

After the deficiencies of an equipment vital to the safety of the ship and the probable absence of her captain, there is an urgent need, in cooperation with Rosatom, the Russian shipowner, to organise a special convoy to tow the Sevmorput to St Petersburg. Only this option would make it possible to prevent the risks of drifting, grounding and collision in the Bay of Biscay, the Strait of Dover, the North Sea, the Skagerrak Strait between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the Kattegat Strait between Denmark and Sweden, the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden, in the Baltic Sea and finally in the Gulf of Finland before the arrival in St Petersburg.

The 32-year-old Sevmorput is the last of the four nuclear-powered merchant ships. The NS Savannah, launched by the United States of America in 1962 as part of the “Atoms for Peace” program, was laid up in 1972. She is docked in Baltimore. The reactor compartment has not been removed. The cargo ship is awaiting to be dismantled. The German Otto Hahn launch in 1968 was converted to diesel propulsion in 1972 and demolished in India under the name Madre in 2009. The Japanese Mutsu was launched in 1972. She immediately faced technical problems and public hostility. On an experimental basis and in ballast, she travelled 50.000 miles in Japanese waters. She was finally decommissioned in 1992, decontaminated and converted under the name Mirai into a diesel-powered oceanographic vessel.

Robin des Bois’s publications on the Sevmorput :
A disabled atomic ship is heading towards Europe, 14 December 2020 – press release n°4
Last minute. Sevmorput in breakdown off the coast of Africa, 25 November 2020 – press release n°3
Sevmorput in breakdown off the coast of Africa, 19 November 2020 – 15h30 – press release n°2
An atomic merchant ship is zigzagging towards Antarctica, 10 November 2020

2013- ” Shipbreaking “, Bulletin of information and analysis on end-of-life ships, n°31, pdf 90 pages, 6.54 Mo, cf. page 84.

2014- ” Shipbreaking “, Bulletin of information and analysis on end-of-life ships, n°34, pdf 56 pages, 6.4 Mo, cf. page 12.
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