Authorities launching investigation into Russian fishing trawler sinking

Pongoma crew members outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn.
Pongoma crew members outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Maritime Administration (Veeteede Amet) is to investigate the circumstances of the sinking of a Russian fishing trawler off the north coast of Estonia late on Thursday night.

As reported on ERR News, the vessel got into difficulty some time after 11.30 p.m. on Thursday and sent a distress signal. The seven crew members were rescued by both Estonian and Finnish responders, who sent a helicopter each, after being found on a life raft, having abandoned ship. Rudder failure was initially reported as being behind the incident.

Two crew members were injured and airlifted to hospital in Finland, the remaining five were also taken to hospital for checkups.

"There will definitely be official proceedings as it concerns a severe shipping accident in Estonian waters," spokesperson for the Maritime Administration Madle Puusepp told BNS Friday, adding that the initial procedures will be determined shortly.

Pongoma in Estonian waters late on Thursday. 

"A Russian fishing trawler with seven people on board got into trouble 15 miles north of the Juminda peninsula at 11:40 p.m. on Thursday. The vessel requested assistance via radio and relayed its coordinates. According to the announcement, the ship was experiencing a steering failure, and had also lost electrical power. The vessel sank rapidly, however, the crew had managed to get in a life raft," Marge Kohtla from the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told BNS.

Russian Embassy expresses gratitude for rescuing crew members

The Maritime Rescue Center alerted Estonian and Finnish fleets and air bases and contacted vessels in the vicinity of the Russian trawler. The first to arrive on the accident site and pick up the crew was a tanker flying the Liberian flag, the Police and Border Guard said.

"A Finnish helicopter with paramedics on board took the two injured crew members to a hospital in Helsinki, and an Estonian helicopter transported the other five to the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) for a medical check-up," Kohtla added.

All members of the crew are citizens of the Russian Federation, and the Russian Embassy in Tallinn has provided the crew members with hotel accomodation, to run until documentation proceedings are finalized and they can return to Russia.

The embassy has also contacted the owner of the vessel, called the Pongoma.

The embassy also passed on its thanks to the Estonian authorities for rescuing the stranded crew members.

"The embassy expresses gratitude to the PPA for prompt assistance in saving the Russian sailors," the embassy said, according to BNS. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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