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Report claims Amaltal Columbia's mayday ignored

Thursday 13 Sep 2012 10:49 a.m.

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A New Zealand fishing company denies one of its ships failed in its duty to go to the aid of a burning trawler off the Canterbury coast.

A fire broke out in the fishmeal hold of the 64-metre Amaltal Columbia, with 43 people on board, about 5:20am on Wednesday and an hour later a mayday call was issued.

The crew, including two government observers, were forced to abandon ship shortly after 8am, and two other trawlers in the area, the Ivan Golubets and the San Discovery went to its aid, retrieving the crew from lifeboats.

But Radio New Zealand reported on Thursday that another ship in the area, the Korean-registered Pacinui, chartered by Sanford, was alleged to have headed away from the drama.

Under international maritime law a ship's master is obliged to render assistance to those in distress.

Sanford managing director Eric Barratt told the broadcaster because other vessels had gone to help the Talley's-owned vessel, including its own San Discovery which was closer to the incident, the Pacinui was not required.

He said it went to Timaru.

The Ivan Golubets and San Discovery ferried the uninjured crew to Lyttelton. They were due to fly to Nelson on Thursday.

The San Discovery towed the Amaltal Columbia, which had lost power and steering, to the port, arriving about 12:30am on Thursday.

The blaze in the hold was put out by firefighters around 5am.

Talley's Nelson CEO Tony Hazlett said the vessel was three weeks into a 45-day trip and hoped the ship, and much of its catch could be salvaged.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has launched an inquiry into the fire.

It will begin a physical examination of the vessel on Thursday.

An investigator will also travel to Nelson to interview company officials and crew members.

The inquiry will take up to a year to complete.


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