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18 May, 2009 13:56

Stinky ship stranded in Black Sea

Stinky ship stranded in Black Sea

A cargo vessel with almost 230 tons of rotting meat onboard can find no harbor willing to accept it. Crew members are trapped with the foul-smelling cargo, which no one wants to dispose of.

The freighter Beriks left the Georgian port of Poti back in February 2008. Shortly after, the story of its estrangement began, when several refrigerators broke down and its meat and poultry cargo started to rot. Almost 230 tons of pork, crow and rabbit meat produced in Brazil and China were turning into waste, reported Svobodnaya Pressa newspaper.

The ship was bound for Turkey, passing several Ukrainian ports en route, says Novy Region news agency. The captain tried to stop for repairs, but by that time the stench from its hold was so bad that no one dared going there without a breathing mask. Sanitary authorities barred the misfortunate freighter from entering, leaving the crew one-on-one with their foul-smelling problem.

Dubbed now the “Stinking Dutchman” (in a reference to the “Flying Dutchman”, the ever-wondering ghost ship of maritime folklore), in April Beriks ended up anchored in the Kerch Strait in between Black Sea and Sea of Azov. The vessel was told to go 20 km off the Crimean shore, far enough not to disturb the locals.

Caught on board the potentially infectious vessel with limited supply of food and water are 12 crew members. They reportedly have several times tried to flee the stinky ship, but were forced to go back by Ukrainian coastguards.

Now a row is underway over who is to clean up the mess on board. Ukrainian officials stay firm that the problem is not theirs to solve, despite the freighter being under Ukrainian flag.

“The cargo has no documents, and regional veterinary services have no grounds to go on board. The law says a vessel with meat, which turns out to be spoiled or dangerous, should be reclaimed by the owner or returned back,” said Ivan Gurenko, deputy head of veterinary directorate for Crimea.

Ukrainian officials say the stinky ship may stay where it is all summer long, even though it may spook off the many tourists from Russia and Ukraine visiting the region.

Meanwhile the firm, which delivered the smelly load, seems to have vanished, and for good reason. Not only will disposing of the rotten meet, which must involve the use of port equipment, cost them a healthy sum, but also the cargo appears to have proverbially smelled bad even before it was loaded on Beriks, says Svobodnaya Pressa. The pork has no expiration date on the crates at all, while the rest of the cargo was overdue three years ago.