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African Queen
8 Chestnut Grove
South Devon

Sunk French Trawler March 2016

MORE details have emerged of the drama which led to a French fishing boat capsizing in the River Dart. The Saint Christophe 1 sank after taking shelter in Dartmouth from a storm, along with two other boats, on March 11. An investigation is ongoing into exactly what happened and salvagers are still trying to find a method of re-floating the vessel.

Dart harbourmaster Capt Rob Giles explained how the capsize happened.
He said: "Dart Harbour took the decision to accommodate the vessels with two of them invited to use Town Jetty and the Saint Christophe I invited to use the South Embankment. The gale conditions at the time meant that berthing the vessels on our main stream buoys was too risky to attempt. "Dart Harbour staff informed the skipper that she would take the ground at low water and the skipper and crew indicated they were happy with this. "Just after midnight, around the time of low water, the Saint Christophe 1 capsized to starboard. For some reason - and this is subject to an investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Bureau - she did not right herself when the tide came back in. "As a result, we were left with the stricken vessel on the sea bed." Capt Giles paid tribute to Dart lifeboat and retained firefighters who contributed to the rapid emergency response and to Dart Harbour staff who were called out overnight to assist with stabilising the situation, once the emergency services action was complete.
"This has not been a pleasant or desired incident, however the response of the emergency services, Dart Harbour staff and Dart Harbour's pollution control contractor have been second to none – the whole incident could have been so much worse if the agencies involved do not practice for this sort of thing," said the harbourmaster.
The majority of the five crew of the vessel have returned to France. The incident is subject to Marine Accident Investigation (MAIB) investigation and Dart Harbour is co-operating fully with this. The harbour is keen to get the message out that it is 'business as usual' in Dartmouth over Easter despite the capsized fishing vessel remaining on the sea bed. Diving survey work has been carried out to assess the condition of the vessel and work has continued to contain the diesel fuel that is onboard.
"Dart Harbour is continuing to protect the environment through our pollution control measures with booms and disk skimmers," said Capt Giles. "Fuel is emanating from the vessel's poorly welded fuel tanks however our control measures are working well with approximately two tonnes of fuel safely collected and disposed of. "Options are being considered for removing the fuel from the vessel and while this is not impossible, it does possess some environmental risk. We're currently carrying out a feasibility study to see if this can be carried out safely if the vessel remains in position for some time or if the environmental situation changes. Divers are carrying out regular checks of the situation."
And Capt Giles added that the harbour authority is continuing to press the vessel's insurers for a timely solution for recovery of Saint Christophe I. "It should be noted that Dart Harbour is not in control of the timescale for this. We understand the insurers are tendering for salvage contracts," said Capt Giles. "With Easter – traditionally the start of the leisure boating season – fast approaching, we are keen for the vessel to be removed as safely and swiftly as possible using a method that will cause least impact to the environment.
"A comprehensive survey has been conducted to ascertain the condition of the vessel, precursor work to assess what salvage solution needs to be carried out by the vessel's insurers."

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