The TARPENBEK Incident


The TARPENBEK Incident


 by James R Smith



MV Tarpenbeck



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 TARPENBEK, owned by Partenreederei m.s. Tarpenbek under the management of Knohr & Burchand had been launched at Lauenburg on 5 February 1972 and was completed in the May of that year. She was 74m in length with a gross tonnage of 999t, a deadweight of 1785t and had a crew of nine.


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 June in thick fog in position 50°39N  00°53W off Selsey Bill with RFA SIR GERAINT.


Sir Geraint L3027

RFA Sir Geraint


Her crew of nine were all rescued by RFA SIR GERAINT who then transferred them to the Selsey Lifeboat. Fortunately there were no casualties, but RFA 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 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 July and was towed to Rotterdam where she arrived on 18 July.