Fresno City (4)

Comments from the forum - 1

Your memory serves you well, Willie. Both the Vancouver City and Fresno City, loaded grain on the ECUS, in December 1974: the Vancouver at Baltimore and the Fresno at Norfolk. Both were destined for Portugal: the former for Lisbon and the Fresno for Lisbon and Oporto/Lexioes. Dan John was Master of the Vancouver and I was Master of the Fresno. The full Officer compliment for both ships can be found below.

The Vancouver was the first to arrive in Lisbon. Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall that she initially discharged in the Stream and later went alongside to complete.

The Fresno arrived a few days later, and unloaded all of her Lisbon consignment at anchor in the Tagus.

Both vessels encountered heavy weather in the Atlantic, and in consequence, suffered some cargo damage; both ships had particularly bad hatch cover problems. I seem to recall that the cargo surveyors involved with the vessels had contacts with local pig farmers, and as such, the damage did not present too much of a problem!!

Upon completion, the Fresno proceeded north to Oporto/Lexioes. No berth was available and it was necessary to anchor off Lexioes for some days. Before joining RSL, I had become fairly familiar with both Lisbon and Lexioes. Offshore of the latter in wintertime, could be a dangerous place, as long, and heavy Atlantic swells would fetch up on that part of the coast.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 29th Jan., my wife was busy “teaching” my two daughters on the boat deck. I, on the other hand was rather concerned about the increased swell. Whilst watching this, I was also interested in a large tanker, the Jakob Maersk, making a slow and steady approach to the pilot cutter that had come out of the narrow breakwater at Lexioes to meet her. Once the pilot boarded, the tanker continued slowly towards the entrance channel; there was noticeable pitching as she did so.

I think she was about 1.5 miles from the Fresno, and still pitching, when the fore end seemed to touch bottom. There followed a massive explosion, and a huge flame, engulfed in thick black smoke, appeared from the after end, and within minutes that part of the vessel was fully ablaze.

Naturally, because of the thick smoke, it was difficult to see exactly what was happening. Certainly, craft emerged from the harbour fairly rapidly, and one of the tugs, already in the vicinity, took off the majority of the crew, including the two berthing pilots. 5 engine crewmembers were lost in the blaze and a sixth member of the crew was drowned. Of the survivors, five or six had severe burns, and from conversations heard, the Second Engineer was flown back to Denmark in a special aircraft, for treatment.

The fire blazed for well over two days, which was deliberately allowed to happen, in order to lessen the damage to the environment. In all, about half the 88,000 tons of crude oil was disposed of in this manner, whilst the remainder was either washed up on the nearby beaches or dispersed with solvents.

To limit the spread of oil, the vessel was surrounded with a barrier of straw, whilst the entrances to both Lexioes and to the River D’oro had booms put in place. The port remained closed for about 4 days. I understand, that despite the severity of the accident, the environment escaped serious damage and pollution.

Upon re-opening, the Fresno was the first ship to enter Lexioes. The pilot was one of the two that had been rescued from the Jakob Maersk. I declined to ask him anything about the tragedy, as he still seemed in a state of shock, particularly as we passed close by the remains of the tanker, then virtually in three separate sections. One section, the bow, was close inshore, and before sailing from the port, sightseers could be seen clambering around this sad piece of wreckage.

Only a couple of weeks back, I was talking to my two daughters about the disaster. The youngest, who was five at the time, had little or no recall of the incident, but her elder sister, who was eight, still remembers it all visibly: particularly the actual explosion.

Fresno City Officers: -

Captain: M.E.Jones, C/O: G.T Parker, 2/O: C.S.G O’Donnell, 3/O: I.M.Stewart, R/O: M.W.Savory, C/E: T.A.Rogers, 2/E: C.E.Hayles, 3/E: D.M.Jellyman, 4/E: N.G.Whitby and G.Morgan, Jnr. Eng: W.Blunt and S.C.Ward, ElecT.Moore, C/S: K.Llewellyn, Cadets: S.Brown and D.J.Herring. Mike Jones. Posted on forum 18 December 2010.

Disclaimer: The statements on this page are the views of the person who posted them on the forum. The events took place many years ago and in most cases rely on those people's memories, and so we cannot guarantee the accuracy although every effort is made to check it.

Fresno City. Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
Memories from RSL staff. [1]

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