The TARPENBEK Incident
Over the years, in common with a number of other well-known ship operators, the RFA
has suffered a number of unfortunate collisions and one of the most memorable ones
occurred in 1979.
The small West German motor tanker TARBENBEK, owned by Partenreederei m.s.
Tarpenbek under the management of Knohr & Burchand had been launched at Lauenburg
on 05 February 1972 and was completed in the May of that year. She was 74 m in length
with a gross tonnage of 999t, deadweight of 1785t and had a crew of 9.
Having loaded a cargo of 1595t of lubricating oil at the Fawley Refinery on the Solent,
she was on passage from that port to Valloy near Tonsberg in Norway when she was in
collision on 21 st June in thick fog in position 50.39 N 00.53 W off Selsey Bill with RFA
Her crew of 9 were all rescued by SIR GERAINT who then transferred them to the
Selsey Lifeboat. Fortunately there were no casualties, but SIR GERAINT sustained
damage to her starboard bow door which was buckled and holed. The German ship too
was holed and began to settle by the stern, but nonetheless was carried by the tidal stream
towards the Nab Tower where she was anchored with her stern resting on the bottom.
Owing to high winds and rough seas she capsized and turned turtle on 24 th June and a
quantity of oil began leaking from her ruptured tanks. To prevent a major pollution
incident, she was towed, upside down, to the shelter of Sandown Bay off the Isle of Wight
where her cargo was successfully recovered. She was then eventually righted on 15 th July
and was towed to Rotterdam where she arrived on 18 th July.
Published by James R. Smith, RFA Historical Society - © 2011 RFA Historical Society