FRESH demands were made last night for tighter controls on Eastern

European fish factory ships as experts assessed the threat of pollution

posed by a 10,000-tonne Russian klondiker which ran aground on Shetland.

Loading article content

The demands followed the disclosure that more than half the 117

klondike vessels inspected at sea off northern Scotland since July had

defects which would have led to them being detained had the inspections

been carried out in port.

All 155 people on board the Kaliningrad-registered Pionersk were

rescued early yesterday by helicopter and lifeboat in a three-hour

operation carried out in darkness and high winds.

Last night, the crippled ship lay stuck on rocks two miles south of

Lerwick, where she came to grief in gale-force winds after dragging her

anchor. Her back was broken but she had not yet broken in two.

Coastguards said she was not considered refloatable in her present


The last inspection of the Pionersk was made on August 17, when nine

defects were found, two of them ''serious'', said Mr Frank Duffin, the

Marine Safety Agency's district chief surveyor for the east coast of


Her emergency generator did not work when MSA inspectors tried it out,

and her emergency lighting failed to operate.

However, Mr Duffin added: ''From what I have heard of today's

incident, whether or not these repairs were carried out would have had

no effect whatsoever. From what I have been told, the ship was

manoeuvring under power at the time.''

However, if the ship had been tied up in port when the inspection was

carried out, she would have been prohibited from sailing until the

faults had been rectified, he said.

The Coastguard Agency said a specially equipped pollution spotter

plane had reported a line of oil stretching southwards from the ship for

1.5km, and up to 400 metres wide.

''The oil is about 300 metres from the shoreline and is estimated to

be about two tonnes,'' said the agency. Three leaks of heavy oil had

been identified on the ship's port side, forming patches amounting to

about 60 tonnes.

The ship was carrying about 570 tonnes of diesel and fuel oil, plus

240 tonnes of fish.

Although the pollution threat now appears less severe than was once

feared, the incident prompted renewed demands for stricter controls on

''rustbucket'' East European klondikers, many of which have come to

grief in similar conditions in recent years.

The calls were led by Mr John McFall, Labour transport spokesman, who

urged the Government to implement speedily Lord Donaldson's report into

shipping safety.

He said: ''This was an accident waiting to happen because the

Government has been lax in implementing the report. Safety in our waters

is paramount. The time for talking is over.''

Mr Jim Wallace, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, said:

''It is difficult to find words to express the frustration and serious

concern that Shetland is having to deal with yet another vessel going


He criticised the Scottish Office and the Transport Department

specifically for taking no action on the Donaldson recommendation --

made after the inquiry into the loss of the tanker Braer off Shetland

last year -- that such vessels should not be allowed to operate unless

their master had insurance and they met adequate safety standards.

The Goverment has not acted so far on that recommendation. However,

last night, it was high on the agenda at talks between the Transport

Minister, Lord Goschen, and the Scottish Environment Minister, Sir

Hector Monro.

Sir Hector said: ''Operations to determine the extent of the damage to

the klondiker are currently under way by the Coastguard Agency's Marine

Pollution Control Unit. The Scottish Office and Scottish Natural

Heritage are already on the scene and as more details of the incident

unfold they will provide appropriate assistance.

''I understand that, at present, there is no immediate fishing or bird

sensitivity in the area of the grounding.

''Discussions have been taking place between my officials and those of

the Department of Transport on the whole question of klondikers and I am

due to meet Transport Minister Lord Goschen this evening on that very


Since July, Mr Duffin's officials have inspected 117 klondikers and

54% would have been prohibited from sailing had they been in port. Four

later came into port and were then barred.

''In a lot of cases, they haven't the money to carry out repairs,'' Mr

Duffin said. ''People have often not been paid their wages for a long

time, so there is no incentive for maintenance.

''We have seen some improvements this year but there are a lot of

klondikers and there are quite a number continuing to come here every

year which are pretty awful.''

Pollution experts last night were still assessing the oil-spill impact

in Shetland, while specialised equipment including pumps, skimmers, and

booms were being dispatched from Aberdeen.

Continued on page 2

Seagoing sweatshops11

Continued from page 1