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Hebei Spirit arrived at the pilot station at 1936, local time, on the eve of Dec 6 in rough weather and was requested to anchor, awaiting the Korean pilot.
At around 0630, local time, Dec 7, in heavy weather, of gale force gusting winds of 30-35 knots and a swell of 2.5 to 3 metres, Samsung No 1 (owner believed to be Samsung Heavy Industries) was being towed by two tug boats (believed to be also owned by Samsung Heavy Industries), the Samsung No.5 and Samho T3, in the close vicinity of Hebei Spirit.
Hebei Spirit anchored in an area designated by the Deasan port authorities, kept a proper anchor watch and displayed proper anchor signals as per regulations. When they realised that the tugs were going to pass close by in a potentially dangerous situation, they attempted VHF communication – however without response (apparently the tug was listening on channel 12 instead of the official channel 16.). Subsequently, the Marine Police was contacted and they also attempted to contact the tug, again without response.
Meanwhile, the Korean tugs were towing the crane barge across the bow of Hebei Spirit from starboard to port. Immediately crossing the bow, the tugs lost all control of the barge and the Indian Master of Hebei Spirit, tried to communicate with the tugs without success.
When the tow lines broke and it became apparent that the crane barge was heading towards Hebei Spirit, the master tried to move the ship out of the way ñ however, with the sheer size of the vessel, 264,162 deadweight tonnes, 338 metres long, in conjunction with adverse weather, there was insufficient time to avoid the collision.
The crane barge then came in contact with port side No.1 and subsequently Nos. 3 and 5 tanks, rupturing all the said tanks. Oil started to leak out of the damaged tanks immediately and the master immediately transferred some cargo from port side tanks No. 3 and 5 to other centre and starboard intact tanks, which had some remaining capacity.
On impact by the crane barge, the vessel listed about 5-7 deg to starboard and the master took quick action in adding further ballast to starboard side No.2 and 4 tanks to list the vessel further to starboard and mitigate any outflow of oil port tanks. Subsequently the oil stopped leaking from the port side tanks, with only intermittent oil leaking from one tank as the vessel rolled in heavy seas