Shipping & Shipbuilding News -  20 December 2007 - The Brightest Maritime Daily


Tragedy on the Clyde as tug capsizes
Maritime community in shock as FLYING PHANTOM goes down, three men missing...

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 unforeseen nature.

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.


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