While Tom Hanks’ new movie “Captain Philips” — a thriller about a ship seized by Somali pirates — may be all the rage in theatres right now, people might not realize that there’s a little bit of the same story tucked away in a corner of St. John’s harbour. But while it’s been here for a while, it looks like it may soon be departing for different seas.
Propped up against the marginal wharf in St. John’s since early 2012, the Lady Remington III, a black freighter with two odd, spider-like cranes, has been nodding away with the harbour lop, looking almost abandoned. It doesn’t leave the harbour, it doesn’t load freight. It simply sits.
Like many vessels, it has a tangled and incomplete history. Boats are relatively straightforward to track in some ways: they carry a unique identifier that stays with them for their entire shipping lives — an International Marine Organization, or IMO, number — and in the Lady Remington III’s case, it’s 8410380.
The numbers help you track a ship from port to port, aided by international tracking software, and lets you know a little about the vessel’s history. And this vessel has more than a little history. It was built in Germany and started life as the Albatros in 1984. Since then, it’s been the Tequila Moonshine, the Albatros 1, the Frauke, the Scott Albatros, the Frauke (again), the Saigon Empress, the Zim Saigon, the Monika, the Thor Sofia and the Lugela, before finally becoming the Lady Remington III in 2011.
But there are holes in the numbers — they don’t tell you what happened when a vessel was in transit. And it’s when the ship was sailing as the Lady Remington III that the story gets most interesting.
It’s a little workhorse that has made its way around the world’s oceans, hauling mixed freight and containers. It’s no giant, only 89 metres long — its one engine makes about 12 knots when the vessel’s carrying cargo.
And in early 2011, the ship’s Ukrainian crew were sailing between Somalia and Yemen when the vessel was attacked.
Here’s what the seafarers’ association Apostles of the Sea wrote about the attack when the ship docked in Britain: “Conversations with the chief officer revealed that whilst sailing through the Gulf of Aden, they had been forcefully boarded by armed Somali pirates. They called for assistance but no one was near enough to come to their aid and so the crew locked themselves in the engine room for two days without food or water.
“During this time they heard several gunshots and what sounded like fighting. When it had been quiet for a long time, the crew emerged to find the pirates had left, though they had created significant damage to the ship and the bridge. They were now in dock in Newport for repairs before being able to continue the journey to America.”
So how did it end up here? Well, that’s where information gets hard to find. There was a court action underway in Maryland, and in January 2012, an arrest warrant was issued for the vessel. All that may have been settled: maritime law is a tangly thing, and it appears the Rukert Terminals Corporation, a Baltimore-based stevedoring and warehousing business, dropped its action about three months later.
Word on the Internet suggested the vessel might belong to Northern Transportation Company of Edmonton, a firm that specializes in Arctic shipping, and that there may have been plans in the North for the ship. But the ship doesn’t appear on that company’s list of vessels, only has a lower-end strength for operating in ice and hasn’t been registered in Canada.
Where it has turned up in the last few months is with a succession of ship brokers; the vessel had been on the block for a while.
All of that may be about to change and the Lady Remington III may slip as quietly out of port as she slipped in. On worldwide ship registries, the ship has just changed hands (Sept. 18), and is now owned by Taral Farouk and Khalil Moro of Mermaid International Shipping out of Pireaus, Greece.
That’s a long way from St. John’s. But it’s a ship that’s gone a long way already. And it was apparently renamed again. The hull, as of Monday, says the ship is named the Naviwind.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.