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  • San Flaviano - Aad H.c.j. Born

    This anecdote is about the tanker San Flaviano and is written by Aad H.c.j. Born.

    Extract below is from the Shell Magazine The Sinking of the “SAN FLAVIANO” Many readers will already have learnt form the national press of the bombing attack on ships in the harbour of Balikpapan on April 28th (1958). The 18000 ton s.t.s “San Flaviano” was hit and set on fire, and the Shell tanker m/s “Daronia” only avoided a similar fate because the bomb which struck her bounced 80 feet off the pump-room skylight and landed in the sea without exploding. It was a great relief that there were no casualties in the “San Flaviano”. Everyone got away in two of the lifeboats within four minutes, and this must certainly be considered a miraculous escape; since the ship had nearly completed discharge and was full of crude oil gas. The attack took place in the early morning. The bombs struck the ship amidships on the starboard side, setting the whole of the main deck ablaze. It was against a background of a raging inferno, punctuated by explosions as tank after tank ignited, that the ship’s complement made their escape. The fire on the starboard side meant that only the port lifeboats, amidships and aft, were accessible. The amidships accommodation was completely cut off by flames from the after part of the ship, so the 38 crew members who were aft had to cram themselves into one boat; while the other boat took the seven who were amidships. “What with that bit of warmth behind”, as Chief Officer Smith remarked, “The lowering of the amidship’s boat seemed to take infinitely longer than the minute or so which it actually took”. The Second and Third Mates, together with the Apprentice MacNamara, after climbing through a port hole, ran up the sloping foredeck and shinned down the anchor cable to be rescued by the after lifeboat, already down to its gunwales. It can have been no easy matter getting into the boats as the ship was high out of the water, and listing to starboard, and some of the crew had to slide down the falls. In the after accommodation Second Engineer Barford thought at first that the diesel generator had blown up, Junior Engineer Seddon didn’t realise that anything serious had happened for a minute or two, and he eventually had to jump for it and was picked up by one of the boats. Chief Engineer Wiberg set a splendid example of coolness and self-possession, calmly collecting some of his belongings and arriving in the boat with perfect equanimity. Captain Bright rowed the amidship’s boat for all his might with his crew of six, including Mrs. Smith, wife of the Chief Officer, who also gallantly took an oar. Twenty six of the crew sailed for Singapore aboard the “Daronia”, the same day as the attack, while another 24 followed a few days later in m/s “Dromus”. Both parties flying home by B.O.A.C Britannia. As testify to the generous assistance and great kindness they received from the B.P.M staff at Balikpapan, and from the officers and crew of the ships that took them to Singapore. At Singapore they were very well treated for by Shell Tankers Ltd., who helped them to make good some of their losses and to buy some clothes. We hope that all those who are now safely home are enjoying a good rest after their nerve-racking experience. Captain Bright and Chief Engineer Wilberg, together with five other senior personnel, are still left at Balikpapan, but we hope it won’t be long before they can be flown home. The last report we have received of the “San Flaviano” is that she is lying almost entirely submersed on the west side of the entrance of Balikpapan Harbour, out of the navigating channel. Source: Reprinted from Shell Magazine June 1958

    Wednesday, May 27th 2009, 12:09 | San Flaviano | Aad H.c.j. Born

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