German tanker gaffe leads to lifeboat drama

The 'distress call' sparked a major rescue operation. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The 'distress call' sparked a major rescue operation. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A MAJOR rescue operation was launched – after a ship’s lifeboat drill was accidently transmitted by hapless mariners over the radio.

Dunbar lifeboat crewmen heard the “distress call” as they were working at their harbour-side 
station on Monday.

With no details of who or where the mayday had come from, they contacted Aberdeen Coastguard to pinpoint the “stricken vessel’s” broadcast.

It was traced to Dunbar, and a German gas tanker that was in the area. The skipper of the vessel was asked if they had broadcast the distress call and – when they denied it – a major two-hour rescue effort involving three lifeboats, 15 crew and costing £6000 was launched.

However Coxwain Gary Fairburn, who’s in charge of the Dunbar fleet, said fuming staff later discovered it WAS the staff of the German vessel who had accidentally blundered.

He said they initially went out fearing they would find wreckage. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” he said.

“Aberdeen had asked the tanker whether they had accidentally made the call, and the Captain said ‘no’. It was only when they sensed it didn’t ring true that they contacted them again and the captain finally 
admitted it.”

The captain of the German gas tanker, Clamor Schulte, was said to be “rather apologetic” afterwards. His firm could not be reached for comment last night.

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kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com