HEROIC Falmouth pilot Captain Tristan Gurd is the man who coordinated the successful refloating of the stricken Russian bulk carrier Kuzma Minin after it had dragged anchor and grounded near Gyllynvase beach last week.

The pilot boat Arrow could not board the pilot to the ship due to gale force winds and a heavy swell. The Coastguard helicopter landed at the Falmouth Rugby club where Tristan was embarked, taken to the ship and winched down onto the deck of the bulker.

From the ship’s bridge Tristan assessed the situation before deploying tugs and workboats in variety of positions to tow the ship off.

Listening on the radio as the operation unfolded I can say Tristan acted with consummate professionalism throughout.

Due to legal reasons Tristan was unable to comment on the salvage operation as such but he did say: “It was a bit of a surreal experience, especially the helicopter boarding. Everyone put in such a massive effort, and it was great to have a successful outcome.”

Captain Mark Sansom, Falmouth Harbour Master said: “This has been a successful and well-coordinated operation involving multiple agencies. We would like to recognise the outstanding performance of the pilot and of all vessel crews involved in what was a very demanding incident.”

Warm words of praise must go to the crews of the various tugs, workboats, pilot boat and lifeboat who all played a part in what started as a very dangerous operation.

Luckily the gale force winds had abated just on high water allowing all of the towing vessels to pull the ship into deeper water.

Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company (FDEC) part of the A&P Group, has praised the agility of its marine operations team as they worked as part of the emergency response effort to refloat the ship.

Drystan Jones, Port Operations Director for the Falmouth Docks and Engineering Company commended the collaborative efforts of the towage team, which were briefed, deployed and on the water within an hour of the requests from the Coast Guard.

Drystan said: “Despite the very testing and tricky conditions, the FDEC team delivered a very impressive, swift and professional response and we are exceptionally proud of their efforts.

“From the Coast Guard’s initial response yesterday, we had three harbour tugs on stand-by and worked as part of a combined emergency response team with the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners and the Maritime Coast Guard Agency (MCA). We are grateful to Fowey Harbour Commissioners also, who provided a fourth tug in time to support the extraction of the stricken vessel. We are delighted that the vessel has now been safely re-anchored without any incident and that a positive outcome has been achieved.

“This result could only be achieved through the quick-thinking and expertise of the tug crews and the strength of cooperation between all parties.”

David McGinley, Managing Director of Atlantic and Peninsula Marine Services Ltd said “I am delighted by the team’s response to the stricken cargo ship and their role in helping to avert a potential environmental disaster.”

A Port State Inspection by MCA Surveyors took place in the early evening of 18 December and confirmed a breach in one of the fuel tanks. Tank readings indicate the tank has filled with water as a consequence of the grounding, however no pollution has been reported.

The vessel has subsequently been detained by the MCA and directed not to leave Falmouth Bay until acceptable repairs have been made. Further inspections by divers and Class are also expected to take place. Once the repairs have taken place, a follow-up inspection will be made before the vessel can be released.

The vessel has full electrical and engine power, and all crew onboard are safe and well.

The Secretary of State’s Representaive (SOSREP) is liaising with the owners of the vessel and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have also been sent to Falmouth.

The SOSREP, MCA, Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, Cornwall Council and the Standing Environment Group continue to liaise and monitor the situation.