Chemical tanker being towed toward western French coast; no apparent leaks

By Franck Jourdain, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Chemical tanker being towed toward French coast

BREST, France — A chemical tanker carrying thousands of tons of a gasoline product was being towed toward France’s northwestern coast Friday after it collided with another ship, the boat’s manager and maritime officials said.

There was no visible pollution in the water surrounding the 120-meter (131-yard) ship, which was built in 2008 and was sailing under a Maltese flag, said the Atlantic maritime prefecture in the French city of Brest.

The 13 crew members of the YM Uranus were unharmed and were evacuated by helicopter to a nearby air base.

The boat took on some water, but the inflow has stopped, and the cargo tanks — carrying a specialist gasoline product called heavy pygas — were not breached, international ship manager V. Ships said, confirming that there had been no pollution of the waters.

“I think the danger is behind us now,” V. Ships spokesman Patrick Adamson told The Associated Press. He said the company would cooperate fully with investigators.

A tow boat was bringing the ship to the port of Brest, where it was to be evaluated, said Frigate Captain Marc Gander, spokesman for the maritime prefecture.

V. Ships said the tanker vessel was struck by a large bulk carrier heading the same direction, the Hanjin Rizhao. French maritime officials said they believed the boats had collided but were waiting to interview the two ships’ captains to learn more.

The YM Uranus cargo ship is carrying more than 6,000 metric tons (6,600 tons) of pygas, which is flammable. Officials said it is listing slightly to one side.

The collision occurred about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the island of Ouessant, off the coast of France’s Brittany region. The Turkish-owned YM Uranus had been traveling from Porto Marghera in Italy to Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The 190-meter (208-yard) Hanjin Rizhao remained on the scene to assist the smaller boat, then was authorized to continue on its way to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, France’s Environment Ministry said.

South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping, the boat’s owner, said it had been carrying iron ore from Brazil to the Netherlands. It said it was still investigating the accident and could not comment further.

Associated Press writer Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.

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