Repairs prompt German standby fleet reshuffle

Neuwerk's year-long yard stay causes short-term standby shortage Neuwerk's year-long yard stay causes short-term fleet shortage

Germany’s North Sea and Baltic accident and emergency fleet was temporarily halved recently when two of its four standby pollution control ships were in for repairs at the same time, reports Tom Todd.

The 78.9m North Sea multi-purpose pollution control ship Neuwerk went into Emden shipyard EWD last July for planned class and funnel conversion work. Unplanned however was the removal of extensive engine room wall insulation which unexpectedly kept the ship in the yard until the end of May this year.

Claudia Thoma, the national spokeswoman for the Waterways and Shipping Office (WSA), told Maritime Journal that “because of the narrow confines of the engine room, cables, machinery, pipes etc had to be dismantled and re-installed". In effect, she added, “the engine room had to be completely cleared and all the technology re-assembled and taken back into operation later”.

Neuwerk was being finished off and provisioned in Cuxhaven before resuming work probably at the end of June, Thoma said.

Neuwerk was however still at EWD in April when its North Sea emergency response partner, the 79.56m Mellum docked at the Neue Jade Werft in Wilhelmshaven for two weeks of scheduled repairs and maintenance. Thoma said work included main and auxiliary engine maintenance, various smaller overhauls and a complete five year class renewal. It left on April 23rd.

So, during the two weeks when both Neuwerk and Mellum were out of action, Germany had only two of its four standby pollution control ships available for emergency response on patrol along the entire German North Sea and Baltic coastline. That coastline stretches from Holland in the west to Poland in the east – a distance of around 2,300kms .

To cover, authorities transferred the 56.2m pollution control ship Scharhörn to Heligoland in the North Sea from its station in the Baltic. That left the second Baltic emergency standby ship - the 69.05m Arkona - to patrol the German Baltic coast on its own.

Although the situation came in for criticism from some, Germany remains one of the best equipped countries in the world as far as emergency maritime accident response capability is concerned. And the WSA’s Claudia Thomas noted that other capable ships were put on standby alert during the unusual absence of Neuwerk and Mellum.

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