The tug FLYING PHANTOM
Tragedy on the Clyde as tug
Maritime community in shock as FLYING PHANTOM goes down, three men
The Clydeside maritime community is in shock after the loss of the tug
FLYING PHANTOM in thick fog on the River Clyde last night.
At 6.42 pm Clyde Coastguard received a 999 call from Community Safety
Officer who heard one of the crew's cries for help in the water. The
tugs owners, Svitzer, say that radio contact with the tug was lost,
and no mayday had been sent. This may indicate her loss was sudden.
Three members of her crew are still missing, the survivor, a 37 year
old, was taken to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.
The tug was escorting the 39738 grt bulk carrier RED JASMINE to
Shieldhall with a cargo of animal feed and got into difficulty near
Rothesay Dock, Clydebank as the vessels made their way up river.
Confusion over the tragedy was doubtless caused by the thick fog. The
Herald newspaper reports that the other tugs escorting the bulker
received radio reports from the PHANTOM, which was leading the tow,
reporting she had grounded and was advised by them to let go her tow
rope. It was only when the other tugs reached port at Shieldhall, says
the paper, they learned the PHANTOM had capsized.
However, the Coastguard say the towline snapped and it was then that
the tug found herself in difficulties.
Conditions were said to be calm on the river and speculation as to the
cause of the tragedy would be useless at this time of publishing.
However the operation was a routine one that the Clyde tugs and crew
have carried out without mishap for many years. Only once before in
living memory has a major towage incident occurred on the Clyde and
that was when the tug FORAGER sank on the 23rd May 1962. The cause of
that incident, near to where BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard is now,
was the ship, the HORORATA had yawed and the towline aft came across
the tug's superstructure and pulled her over, causing her to sink. Two
men died in that tragedy.
The FLYING PHANTOM herself had an accident almost exactly seven years
ago when on the 28th December 2000 she struck a submerged object near
Dumbarton whilst escorting a ship. Again this happened in thick fog
and she was beached to prevent sinking.
The FLYING PHANTOM is legendary amongst maritime enthusiasts and has a
strong following of fans. One of the last 'real tugs' as enthusiasts
would say, she was built in 1981 at the Ferguson Shipyard in Port
Glasgow. Indeed, she is the last of the Clydebuilt tugs on the Clyde.
Popular as she is, it is the missing crew that are uppermost in the
minds of the maritime community and expressions of horror at the
incident on the local internet forum devoted to Clyde shipping matters
have been tempered with agonised restraint as further news is awaited
on the fate and identity of the three missing crew members.
The incident brings sharply into mind that however routine a towage
operation may be, there are always dangers and in most cases, of an
Shipping Times sincere heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to crew and
their friends and relatives at this time of tragedy and anxiety. A
search for the three missing has been resumed today.