Ship towed ashore after missing North Sea gas rigs
LONDON, Jan 13 (Reuters) A tug boat began towing ashore a stricken cargo ship which narrowly missed smashing into two gas platforms overnight in stormy weather off Britain's eastern coast, the Coastguard said.
The vessel, the Vindo, carrying 4,200 tonnes of fertiliser, broke down on Thursday afternoon and began drifting towards several gas fields in the southern North Sea.
Royal Air Force helicopters were scrambled to airlift 30 workers off one gas platform and production at three platforms was shut down as a precaution.
In six metre (18 foot) waves and howling winds, the ship missed one platform by just a few hundred metres (yards).
Its drift was finally brought to a halt on Friday morning when a tug reached the vessel and began towing it to shore, a spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said.
Operator ConocoPhillips said the three small platforms, located about 80 miles (50 km) off Britain's east coast, remained closed for safety checks yesterday.
Both the British and Irish weather centres issued gale warnings for all coastal regions on Thursday as winds gusted at up to 80 miles per hour (130 kph).
Rescue services resumed their search yesterday for seven fishermen after two Irish trawlers sank within hours of each other in stormy seas off Ireland's southeast coast.
A helicopter winched two Lithuanian fishermen to safety late on Thursday after they had spent 20 hours in a life raft.
''We are putting every effort into a rescue but as time goes by it becomes more unlikely that we will actually be rescuing crewmen,'' Irish Coast Guard spokeswoman Veronica Scanlan said.