The last flight of the liner MTS Oceanos

153-metre liner MTS Oceanos was built in 1952 for the company Messageries Maritimes on the French shipyard Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde in Bordeaux. The first few years he went on the Marseilles – Madagascar – Mauritius under the name of Jean Laborde. After he was called Mykinai, Ancona, Eastern Princess. In 1976 it was registered in Greece under the name of Oceanos.

Originally built as a passenger-cargo ship, only to the end of the 70-ies of the Oceanos was reconstructed and was used exclusively for cruising. In 1991 from Greece, he was again transferred to South Africa. For eight months the ship was transferred to the Charter company TFC Tours of Johannesburg, where, as it later became known, were kept in extremely poor technical service.

August 3, 1991, the MTS Oceanos went in flight from East London, South Africa, in the port of Durban. On Board were 571 passengers and crew. The weather was far from pleasant, for evening the force of the wind reached 40 knots and the wave height of 9 meters.

By the time the port was fixed the poor condition of the vessel. After the recent poor quality repairs carried out “in haste” after the return of the MTS Oceanos from a trip to Mozambique, during which problems were found with the bilge water, which began to climb through the toilet and shower rooms, the liner had a number of serious problems.

As it turned out, in particular, there were problems in the engine room, was improperly welded a few plates below the waterline and in the bilge to replace a failed sewer pipe was welded new the wrong diameter, causing the bulkhead between the generator and sewage tank left a hole in 10 see

Among the passengers on Board were musicians and British entertainers moss hills (Moss Hills) and Tracy hills (Tracy Hills). Before dusk they along with the other passengers partied and danced on the main deck, but as soon as the wind picked up, everyone was forced to go down to the salons and cabins. According to witnesses, the evening of 3 August, the ship was shaking so much that it was impossible to eat: dishes, plates, Cutlery – everything slid off the table onto the floor.

According to reports, around 21:30 liner MTS Oceanos was near the coast of South Africa the Transkei, when in the engine room he heard a muffled explosion. He stopped the engines and formed a small hole in the housing. Incoming water shorted out the generators. A 10-cm hole in the bulkhead left after the repairs allowed water to penetrate the sewage tank; from there the sea water ran through the main drain pipe and began to climb out of each bathroom, shower and toilet at the lower deck of the ship.

Nothing could save the MTS Oceanos. It is almost immediately understood the captain Aranas Yannis (Yiannis Avranas). As soon as it became aware of the accident, they rushed to… collect things and to prepare for evacuation. On the adoption of any regulatory measures, including the closure of the portholes of the lower decks, no one remembered. How about five hundred passengers who remained in their cabins completely unaware of the disaster until the moment when the shower and toilet rooms began to rise water.

According to eyewitnesses, with the advent of water passengers ship panicked and began to search for the crew. By the time they got up to the bridge, captain Aranas Yannis (Yiannis Avranas) and many team members were already wearing lifejackets and were preparing to evacuate on the boats, completely indifferent to the fate of the passengers.

The ensuing events became possible only thanks to the coolness and patience entertainer moss Hills (Moss Hills). He continued to broadcast a distress signal on the radio until, has not yet received a response. The rescue operation in stormy conditions was connected to all the nearby civilian vessels, the Navy and air force of South Africa. In a seven-hour rescue mission involved several ships and 16 helicopters.

The morning was saved all 571 people; moss hills (Moss Hills), his wife Tracy hills (Tracy Hills), as well as friends of the artist entertainers Julian Butler (Julian Butler) and Robin Boltman (Robin Boltman) left the ship in the last five is more dramatic and successful sea rescue operation was not.

Captain Yiannis Arenas (Yiannis Avranas) and four senior officers of the MTS Oceanos was later convicted of criminal negligence. In its defense, the captain said “…when I order abandon ship, it doesn’t matter what time I leave. To leave is for everyone. If some people wish to remain [on Board], they can stay.” Arenas included in the list of the most dishonest captains in history, as well as repeating his offense 13 Jan 2012 the captain of the Costa Concordia Francesco Schettino (Francesco Schettino).

August 04 at about 15:30 MTS Oceanos banked to starboard and began to leave the front part under the water. When ten minutes later the nose of the liner has reached the bottom, his stern played over water to a height of about 60 meters. After some time, the liner was completely submerged and sank to the bottom.

MTS Oceanos lies at a depth of 92-97 meters in 5 km from Cape Agulhas (Agulhas, Agulhas), South Africa, where from time to time, there is one of the fastest currents. Its strength reaches the strength of 70 x 106 m3/sec, which makes it difficult and sometimes impossible any diving operations, not to mention recreational diving.

Carl van der Merwe (Karl van der Merwe), one of the professional divers involved in the dive to the MTS Oceanos, a week after the disaster, commented: “the Current was so strong that from time to time, it tore the mask from his face and pulled the tube from the mouth… <…> I would not recommend this crash to anyone but the best technical divers who really know what they are doing.”

Another group of professional divers, who dive to the MTS Oceanos in 1991, also could not reach the body of the liner and was forced to resort to the use of deep-sea camera. Band members Steve Minnesota North (Steve Minne) and Johan Swart (Johan Swart ) confirmed the immense power of the flow. Steve Mann commented: “We had to hold on to the anchor chain all of our strength. Sometimes we were almost in a horizontal position. We must be crazy if he decided on that dive.”

Dive to the MTS Oceanos was able to implement only once. In 2002, it was made by the team of technical divers Barry Coleman (Todd Coleman), and the Haughton Brett (Brett Hawton). They are long preparing for a mission and tracked down the “window” when the current near the Agulhas weakens. Twice, 5 and 7 may Coleman and Haughton safely descended to the liner. They were able to get into the portside corridor behind the pool on the main deck and explored much of the dining room. Further study of the remains was again prevented by the nature.

© Text: Egor Lanin, ruYachts Magazine, 2014
© Photo source: press materials

    Constantine Kuhlow
    Author ruYachts

    Editor, co-founder of the portal

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