31 hour shout Tobermory Lifeboat’s longest ever, ending in joint operation with Oban lifeboat

fri ocean tobermory and oban lifeboats

Tobermory lifeboat has issued the press statement below on the epic 31 hour shout its crew carried out – the longest ever for the station – in assisting the cargo ship MV Fri Ocean, grounded on Mull on Friday morning and now at anchor  in Oban Bay off the Isle of Kerrera, awaiting damage surveys and an MAIB investigation.

The Tobermory statement gives insights into just how the crew managed the challenge and how the location of the incident actually helped them to do this. Here is what they say:

Tobermory lifeboat summary:

‘Tobermory’s volunteer crew have spent more than 30 hours in a rescue mission to assist a cargo ship aground in the Isle of Mull.

‘Tobermory RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat launched shortly after 6am on Friday to assist a cargo vessel hard aground on the east coast of the Isle of Mull, two and a half miles south of Tobermory. The volunteer crew assisted the crew of the vessel with pumping operations for much of Friday and then stood by awaiting an opportunity to refloat the vessel. On Friday evening the vessel was successfully refloated and was escorted to the shelter of Salen Bay until first light with Tobermory lifeboat standing by

‘On Saturday morning, Tobermory lifeboat escorted the cargo ship to Oban and working with Oban RNLI’s lifeboat, the vessel was safely anchored in Oban Bay for further investigations and a damage assessment to take place.

‘The volunteer crew returned to Tobermory at 1245 on Saturday afternoon and the lifeboat was refuelled and ready for service by 1400, more than 31 hours after launching.

‘Tobermory RNLI Coxswain Andrew McHaffie said: ‘This is the longest ever shout for Tobermory and it was a real team effort by all of the crew. We were fortunate that the proximity of the incident to Tobermory meant that we were able to changeover many of the crew in the evening. Nevertheless, everyone involved in the operation spent a minimum of 8 hours on the shout and special mention must go to Jock Anderson, our full time mechanic who was on the lifeboat throughout. There are some very weary crew today but we are extremely pleased that the operation went so smoothly and that the cargo ship is now safely in Oban Bay where she can be further assessed for damage.’

Note: The initial press release from the the Tobermory station’s Press Office, Dr Sam Jones – and video on this incident can be found online here.

Tobermory lifeboat has just [17.12] released this additional video footage

Oban Lifeboat statement on the joint operation this morning

In an account of the work done this morning by the two Argyll lifeboats from Tobermory and Oban to get MV Fri Ocean safely into Oban Bay and anchored there without interfering with other marine traffic, Oban Lifeboat has just issued this statement in relation to that joint operation:

‘The Norwegian coaster,  Fri Ocean, which ran aground on Friday in the Sound of Mull and holed herself was this morning, Saturday 15th June,  assisted  by both Oban and Tobermory Lifeboats into Oban harbour  where she anchored to await further inspection.

Tobermory lifeboat had stood by the Fri Ocean all day Friday while temporary patching was carried out and this morning, at a speed of about 4 knots, Oban lifeboat led her into Oban Bay while Tobermory lifeboat, with a line to her stern, was prepared to take any other action necessary.

Traffic both in and out of Oban Bay North entrance was stopped while the lifeboats and coaster negotiated the narrow entrance and she anchored at 11.36 a.m.

Having found no ingress of water the yacht anchored for the evening and the lifeboat returned to Oban where it was ready for service again at 10:45.’

fri ocean tobermory and oban lifeboats

The photograph top and above, by Stephen Lawson Photography, shows all three vessels entering the Bay. If you look carefully, we think you can see the belt-and-braces controlling line from Fri Ocean to the Tobermory lifeboat astern of her.

And so…

There will be more to this story in terms of the nature and consequences of the damage and in what the MAIB report eventually say. There is a series of curiosities surrounding the incident.

She is reported to have grounded around o2.00 yesterday morning but did not report the incident to Stornoway Coastguard until 06.00. If this is correct, the time of the morning tide might account for such a delay. Was she hoping to get herself refloated and on her way without remark?

Then, when she successfully got herself refloated on the evening tide – she was doing 7 knots away from the grounding site at 19.30 – she steered north west, heading out of the Sound of Mull, not turning back until about 20.20 and – at 20.30 -  reporting to Stornoway Coastguard that she was afloat and making her way down the Sound of Mull to Oban under instructions.

Was she actually aiming to make passage to Sweden to deliver her cargo, once she got off – and ensure the necessary payday for her owners? Was Tobermory Lifeboat instrumental  in her decisions to turn back from that intention? We won’t even ask because they couldn’t tell us – but the MAIB certainly will. The gaps in the timeline in the ship’s calls to Stornoway Coastguard bear some investigation.

One thing, however, can be said immediately.

The RNLI and Argyll can be proud of the calm, focused, well directed and successful service the lifeboats from Tobermory and Oban delivered to see this incident through to a safe conclusion.

The Tobermory lifeboat’s effort will go down in the history of the station’s contribution to maritime safety, life saving and environmental protection; and the Oban life boat’s teamwork and commitment in the joint operation to secure the Fri Ocean at anchor has met its own high standards.

Well done to both of them.

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6 Responses to 31 hour shout Tobermory Lifeboat’s longest ever, ending in joint operation with Oban lifeboat

  1. I reckon they went aground between 0210 and 0220

    You can see the ship doing 10.1 knots 310 degrees at at 0210h.


    At 0220h it is very near the place it ran aground doing 10.6 knots 311 degrees


    At 0230h is must be aground as showing 0.4 knows 7 degrees




    After that must have been trying to get free but by 0250h showing 0 knots and Aground


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  2. Delay in reporting this incident to the coastguard could have had serious pollution consequences if things had gone wrong.
    Enviromently this is an important area with a lot of tourist based jobs dependant on keeping it clean.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Marine Accident Investigation Branch MAIB have now posted this casualty as a “current investigation”. It is always difficult to assess when an Interim Report will be published, but I’m sure that this one will make really interesting reading, in this case, complications may arise due to the owners nationality and ship’s port of registration. The MAIB will wish to quickly establish the disposition and health of the ship’s personnel during the ship’s passage from Ireland, including the deviation up Loch Linnhe towards Fort William and mooring at Corpach prior to it’s passage up the Sound of Mull. In search of the Eastern passage to Varberg? Not least will be the curious delay in reporting the grounding to the Coastguard and the attempt at the Sound’s Northern exit prior to setting course for Oban. Not least it has shown how the Coastguard deployed some of it’s assets and the prominence and reliance on the volunteer RNLI. Has anybody heard of any crew being cautioned or charged in relation to the grounding?

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    • The Oban Times reported on 6th June on the MAIB report on a similar incident last July when a small container ship rammed the Isle of Bute, and apparently legal action is ongoing.

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    • I presume that its previous cargo was to Ireland.
      I did not look carefully when I saw it at Corpach on Thursday but fairly sure it was loading there so it was not a ‘diversion’. FRI OCEAN has been into Corpach previously.

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