Maritime Regulator, Charlie Maniel confirmed to Daily Post around 6.40pm yesterday that “there is a high possibility that LC Urata will sink by 12am (midnight yesterday)”.
LC Urata was travelling from Malekula, en route to Port Vila when it encountered a technical problem, where water was coming in from the stern tube and flooded the engine room.
“I received a telephone call from the Captain of MV Young Blood yesterday morning at 5am, notifying me that LC Urata was 25 nautical miles away from Emae Island and had encountered a problem,” said Mr.Maniel.
“The captain said all 60 passengers and 15 crew are safe. They were taken on board MV Young Blood which redirected its journey back to Port Vila. Young Blood was on its way to Malekula when it responded to the distress call from LC Urata.”
Around 9am yesterday, a team from the Office of the Maritime Regulator (OMR) led by the Regulator left Port Vila on a helicopter hired by the owner of the vessel — John Amos, for assessment. The landing craft was located 46 nautical miles away from Emae upon the arrival of the officials.
“It was roughly five hours after the early morning telephone call but the ship continued to stay afloat,” said Maniel.
The Regulator said engineers went into the ship to conduct their assessment but the acutal cause of the incident is yet to be confirmed.
There were eight ballast tanks on board, ballast tanks provide stability for any vessel.
According to the regulator, the eight ballast tanks were watertight, meaning there is air in them which prevented the ship to sink quickly.
Maniel said prior to departing Port Vila yesterday morning, he received confirmation from inspectors in Luganville that the ship was in a good condition when it left Santo on Tuesday, before going to Malekula.
Plans were underway to salvage the ship today, however, after the second flight of the helicopter to monitor the status of the vessel yesterday afternoon, the owner called off the operations.
Regulator Maniel confirmed that cargo, including kava were on board the landing craft.
He convyed his gratitude to the captain and crew of MV Young Blood, for rescuing the passengers and crew on LC Urata.
An investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the incident.