Flagship bruised in sea-borne collision

  • 2004-12-09
  • Baltic News Service
RIGA - The flagship of Latvia's navy, the Virsaitis, having suffered slight damage in a collision at sea with the Imanta, another ship of Latvia's naval fleet, was dry-docked at the Tosmare shipyard for repairs on Dec. 7.
A spokeswoman for the naval force, Vita Lebedeva, confirmed that on Nov. 20 the two ships touched as a result of an unsuccessful maneuver, and the Virsaitis incurred a slight dent on its port.

Lebedeva said the two ships had entered Liepaja Port from Riga and were executing various training maneuvers during the voyage when the mishap occured.

National Armed Forces press officer Uldis Davidovs also confirmed that there was a slight collision but denied the ship was sent to Tosmare for repair due to the collision. "These are annual repair works that were planned in advance," said Davidovs, adding that the ship's side was dented on its left side.

The Virsaitis' commander, Aivars Usackis, confirmed to an Internet portal that the ship right now is under repair, but it was not due to any collision since the ship has to undergo regular repair work to be prepared for the next shipping season.

Acting commander of the naval forces, Andrejs Zvaigzne, stressed that the damage was minor and that an in-house probe into the incident had been opened.

Asked if the Virsaitis' captain, Aivars Usackis, had been suspended from the post for the period of investigation, Zvaigzne said Usackis was not the ship's captain any more. The decision to replace him was made before the accident, and Usackis is still acting captain since the new captain has not been approved yet.

The Tosmare shipyard's deputy director for production issues, Boriss Galkovics, said that the Virsaitis was under repair and needed regular general work and attention to hull damage that may have occurred as a result of an accident.

The Virsaitis was donated to Latvia by the Norwegian government in 2003. The 64.8 meter-long and 12-meter wide ship was built in 1978.