Ship sail

Freighter in distress reports being ‘harassed’ by unknown ship

Swedish SAR teams rescued the five crew members during a difficult night operation (Swedish Maritime Administration file photo)

Posted on January 20, 2022 at 9:30 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Swedish and Danish forces responded Thursday evening to a distress call from a Norwegian coastal vessel that was in danger of sinking. They carried out a difficult night rescue airlifting the crew to safety and while the investigation is ongoing, some sources report that the crew said they were ‘harassed’ by an unknown vessel before the call from distress.

What is known is that the general freighter registered in Norway Bjugnfjord (1,500 dwt) was sailing between Copenhagen and Randers in Denmark when it made the distress call. The vessel, which is 213ft long, has a crew of five Norwegians and is believed to have been carrying a load of topsoil.

The Danish Defense Maritime Operations Center reports that the sea was very rough with winds approaching 30 miles per hour in the area. The vessel was in the seaway between Skane in southern Sweden and Gilleleje in northern Denmark.

The distress call arrived around 8 p.m. local time and the Swedish maritime authority dispatched two helicopters to search for the vessel with one of its patrol boats, while the Danish defense also dispatched two helicopters and a frigate. By the time they reached the small freighter, it was listing heavily and they reported that it was in danger of capsizing or sinking. The Swedish helicopter lifted two of the crew from the ship’s deck while the other three were removed from the ship’s lifeboat and they were all airlifted to Sweden. No injuries were reported.

A spokesperson for Swedish Naval Air and Sea Rescue reported that it appears the cargo may have moved onto the ship, but the ship’s crew allegedly told their rescuers that their ship was being ‘harassed’ by an unknown vessel . British security management firm EOS Risk Group tweeted a message suggesting it could be a Russian warship saying the Russians were known to be “aggressive and conduct dangerous manoeuvres” in the area.

The duty officer at the Armed Forces Operations Center in Denmark told reporters it had not been possible “to speak to the crew and get clarification on what happened”. He said they planned to interview the crew in the morning.

The ship’s owner, Fosenfrakt, speaking to TV 2 in Sweden, said the vessel was captained by an experienced captain familiar with the waters. He thanked salvage forces for their efforts and said they hoped to inspect the ship in the morning.

A Swedish patrol boat and a Danish frigate stood alongside the vessel, but said it was too choppy to attempt to tow it at the time.