17 Missing After Russian Trawler Capsizes Off Novaya Zemlya

Russian SAR tug under way in a joint rescue exercise in the Barents Sea, 2015 (Mil.ru)

Published Dec 28, 2020 2:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Russian trawler went down in the Barents Sea in icing conditions on Monday, and 17 members of her crew remain missing. 

At about 0730 hours Monday, Russian emergency services received notice that the trawler Onega sank suddenly in the Barents Sea off Novaya Zemlya. Heavy ice buildup is the suspected cause, according to Russian media. 

Conditions on scene at the time of the sinking include temperatures of about -20 degrees Fahrenheit and waves of about 13 feet in height. 

Multiple response vessels were dispatched to locate survivors, including other fishing vessels belonging to the owner of the Onega. Two survivors were located and rescued by another nearby fishing vessel, but the remaining 17 are not expected to be found alive in the extreme cold. Factors complicating the search include rough surface conditions and the 24-hour darkness of the polar night. 

"According to the preliminary data, there are no survivors apart from two rescued sailors. The frozen vessel sank instantly during a storm, leaving practically no chance for anyone to be saved in the freezing waters," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Emergency Situations told TASS. 

A source told Interfax that the vessel capsized while the crew was hauling in their nets. An investigation is under way into the circumstances of the casualty, including an inquiry into whether any criminal violations of maritime safety regulations may have occurred. 

The Onega was a Soviet-era fishing trawler built in 1979 and flagged in Russia.