Exmouth’s lifeboat crew was called out overnight to a stricken tug boat after it was holed by the ship it was towing.

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The incident happened off the coast of Torbay yesterday evening, at around 9.30pm, when the 70 metre tug boat Christos XXII was hit by the ship, named as the Emsstrom, a former German naval training ship.

Exmouth RNLI received the call, and the all-weather lifeboat dispatched to the scene along with the Torbay lifeboat.

On arrival at the incident, just off Hopes Nose, pumps from both lifeboats were put aboard, along with two crew members from the Torbay lifeboat.

Six of the 8 crew of the Christos, were taken off by the Torbay lifeboat and taken to Brixham. The Exmouth lifeboat stood by to monitor the situation.

John Heal, the Torbay Emergency Coxswain, went into the engine room to investigate the damage but, even with two pumps running, the Christos was still making water and in danger of sinking.

Additional pumps were transferred by the nearby warship Lancaster, but still the water level was rising.

Crew from Lancaster were then able to plug the leak by effecting a temporary repair using wooden wedges, reducing the ingress of water by some 60 per cent.

Meanwhile the towed boat Emstrom had been cast adrift and was picked up later by the local tug MTS Vulcan.

The helicopter from RNAS Chivenor was also on scene and stood by at Walls Hill, Torquay in case it was needed.

With the crew safely off and on board the lifeboat, the focus then moved to saving the ship and reducing the pollution threat, from the 200 tons of diesel oil on board.

The Dutch salvage tug Brent arrived on scene at approximately 1.30am on Monday 14 equipped with more powerful pumps and managed to start reducing the water level within the ship.

By daybreak, the Brent was confident that she could keep the Christos afloat to allow for underwater welders to apply a patch to the hull of the Christos.

The Exmouth lifeboat picked up its equipment and returned to its station just before 4am.

A Brixham Coastguard spokesman this morning said that all the water had been pumped out of the tug, and salvage personnel and divers were now in attendance to repair the Christos and assess the damage to the Emsstrom.

Update - Just before 2pm this afternoon, a Coastguard spokesman said that the Emsstrom had now sunk. approximately 2.5 nautical miles east by north from Hopes Nose, in 23 metres of water.

The ship had been listing too heavily for salvors to get onboard. As it was empty, it is not a pollution risk.

The Christos is now said to be stable, with the risk of pollution very low.

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