The Ill

Book Made By My Gran`s Husband Colin Darch. Mostly About When We Got Captured By Pirates By Somalia.


1. Pirated The III-fated Delivery of “Svitzer Korsakov”

The III-fated Delivery of “Svitzer Korsakov”

To seamen piracy, like cancer, is a danger which can be lethal. But we expect it to
happen to other people, so we live in complacency and ignorance of our capacity to
suffer it and survive.

I first heard of the tug “Svitzer Korsakov“ in October 2007 when the Dutch Company
I occasionally work for, offered me the command of her for a two month delivery
voyage to the Far East. She was being built in St.Petersburg with a sister ship “Svitzer
Busse,“ and they would be ready to depart in November. Over the previous eight
years I had done some twenty ship deliveries, mostly for this Dutch Company, and
found it interesting and challenging work which I enjoyed. There seemed no reason to
suspect this would be any different, so I accepted the job.

I applied for a Russian visa, and waited at home in North Devon, while information
trickled through. Russia had opened up a new deepsea port in Sakhalin, a peninsula
north of Japan, for the export of natural gas. Two icebreaking tugs built in Singapore
were already working at the new tenninal, while a second pair, for some political
reason, had been commissioned from the Admiralty yard in St.Petersburg. This yard
had not previously undertaken commercial work and was struggling to complete the
ships on schedule. much to the frustration of the Danish tug owners Svitzer, part of a
well known Danish conglomerate. They operate tugs in many ports of the world, and
shuffling these tugs around provides the Dutch Company with a lot of work.

Normally the Dutch supply a complete crew, with Dutch or British senior officers,
and the other ranks, if not Dutch or British, are Indonesian, Filipino, or Russian. Each
crew member is well qualified and experienced for his position on board, which makes
an efficient and harmonious team. A crew of five or six good men, working six hour
watches, is sufficient for a tug on passage, though tiring, especially in bad weather.
To compensate the provisions are of excellent quantity, quality, and variety, and
including a modest amount of beer and winc, but no spirits.

This delivery was to be different. Svitzer requested, or insisted, that the Dutch should
provide only a Master and Chief Engineer for each ship. The Mates and Second
Engineers, and two Able Seamen for each tug were to be Svitzer men, all Russians
from Sakhalin. Our contract was to deliver the tugs to Singapore where they were to
be drydocked for any defects and deficiencies to be corrected before proceeding to
Sakhalin. Our involvement was to end on arrival Singapore, and the Mates and
Second Engineers would be promoted to Masters and Chief Engineers for the last leg
of the delivery, and would operate the tugs at the gas terminal.

Our joining date was put back several times, and we went on three quarters pay.
At last on 6'“ December 2007 we flew to St.Petersburg and gathered at the Hotel
Anushka. Joe Benneton from Newcastle was to have command of “Svitzer Busse”
with a Liverpool Chief Engineer, and I was to have the “Svitzer Korsakov” with Ted
Burke from the west of Ireland as Chief Engineer.

l knew Ted slightly as we had delivered two workboats from southem Chile to West Africa, and though not crewing
together had met socially in ports where we took bunkers and stores. Benneton had
served as Mate with me on an oil rig supply boat delivered from Cameroon to Dubai,
and we were good friends. The filth member in the hotel was our Dutch boss, a fine
gentleman who had decided to personally superintend this contract rather than send a
subordinate, in view of the unusual nature of the crewing, and other factors.

On 7"‘ December we visited the tugs for the first time, driven by a Russian agent in a
mini bus. Due to strict security in the Admiralty shipyard we had to enter and leave
together with all five names on one pass.

My ship was more advanced than the other but both needed a lot done to be ready for
sea. We were introduced to the two chief Mates, Igor for “Busse" and Nikolai
Berezovskiy for me. Berezovskiy, tall, hunched, with thick black moustache, dull
unsmiling eyes, and heavily accented English. lgor said little. These men, and the two
engineers, had been standing by the construction of the tugs for three months,
including the sea trials, so could be expected to have a thorough knowledge of them.
Berezovskiy reported that the trials had been satisfactory, apart from one or two
glitches, for example the port anchor of the “Korsakov” had been damaged and
replaced. Svitzer were impatient to get the ships out of Russia and had arranged for
most of the stores to be deposited at Fredericia in Denmark, where we were to spend
four days storing up, doing bollard pull trials, and finishing off other essential work.

On 8"‘ December we decided to leave the ships to the painters and cleaners swarming
over them, and visit the Hermitage Museum. I particularly wanted to see the Gauguins
having been to the little Gauguin museum in Tahiti in the l960s. The time spent in the
Hermitage was simply wonderful, a real boost to morale before facing the rigours of
the sea, Gulag soup, and pirates.

On 10"‘ December we checked out of the Anushka Hotel and went cheerfully aboard,
but were disappointed to find the ships still not ready to live in. This day we met the
two Second Engineers, to become Chief Engineers on arrival Singapore. Both named
Alexander, and mine Lichkunov struck me as the more pleasant of the pair.
Before rctuming to the hotel our boss invited Igor and Nikolai to join us for dinner
and drinks, a chance to break the ice and get to know each other. They did not come.

On 11"‘ December the four seamen arrived from Sakhalin, and Berezovskiy
introduced me to mine, Pyotr Kimochkin and Evgeny Komkov. Neither spoke English
and when I enquired which was the cook they looked at their feet and muttered.
Berezovskiy grunted, “They will share.” Back at the hotel I leamed from Joe
Benneton that he also had no cook, though one of his A.B.s spoke reasonable English
having worked on North Sea oil rigs.

December 12"‘ was a very busy day on which Benneton and I officially took
command of our ships, alter lengthy grilling by officials on our knowledge of ISM
and ISPS rules. These have to do with safety management and port security. Finally
satisfied, the officials issued the necessary certificates for us to sail.
All hands then took stores sufficient for the four day passage to Fredericia, and afier a
hard day with nothing to eat or drink we returned to the hotel, too late for dinner. The
boss eventually persuaded them to provide soup and salad.
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