CREWS from two Portsmouth ships helped out in a dramatic rescue and stopped a tugboat from sinking.
Lieutenant Matthew Warren spoke to The News about how crews from HMS Severn – of which he is also the executive officer – and HMS Lancaster pumped out tonnes of water to stop a boat going under the water off the coast of Devon.
Sailors struggled in dark, freezing conditions to plug a hole in the damaged hull of the Christos tugboat.
It had been pulling the decommissioned vessel MV Emsstrom, which went into the back of the tugboat, creating a large hole in its hull.
Lt Warren said: ‘In four hours we moved 300 tonnes of water – we had been pumping it out.
‘We were just about able to keep the vessel afloat, so that other specialist vessels could get to the tugboat and take over with the salvage operation.
‘The water had started getting into the boat quite quickly.
‘When we arrived, the water had got into the engines and we did things as quickly as we could to get water out.
‘Our priority was to ensure the safety of the vessel and prevent any pollution to the sea.’
Both warships arrived in Devon at around 10pm and were there until 3.30am.
The RNLI’s Exmouth and Torbay lifeboats responded to the SOS and rescued most of the tug’s crew on Monday night.
But their pumps were unable to stem the tide and the Christos was in danger of foundering.
The coastguard called in fishery protection ship HMS Severn and Type-23 frigate HMS Lancaster, which was sailing from her home base of Portsmouth to Plymouth.
‘It was bitterly cold, but thankfully the sea was benign,’ added Lt Warren.
‘It is the largest operation of this type that I have been involved in.’
A Brixham Coastguard spokesman said: ‘At about 9pm on Monday it appears a tug’s tow rammed into the back of the tugboat.
‘The tug stopped and its tow collided with it.
‘We issued a Mayday call and a number of people assisted, including two ships from Portsmouth.
‘There were no reports of pollution in the sea and there has been no loss of fuel.’