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VENOIL & VENPET - Two Sisters Met For The World Most Expensive Handshake ...

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    VENOIL & VENPET - Two Sisters Met For The World Most Expensive Handshake ...

    Once they exceed a pachydermous 250,000 tons—about four times the size of the QUEEN ELISABETH 2, for example — oceangoing oil carriers are classified as supertankers. Like elephants, they can also be superterrors. Purists dislike their wallowing bulk. Mariners fret about a 1,200-ft. ship that may require half a harbor to slow down, needs miles of room for a minor change in course and in extremis could wreak disaster. Sure enough, disaster occurred last week in waters off South Africa's Cape St. Francis.

    Crashing through choppy seas on a misty morning came the four-year-old 330,000-ton supertanker VENOIL. It was carrying 250,000 tons of crude oil from the Iranian petroleum port at Kharg Island and was bound for Nova Scotia. At 9:39, the VENOIL plowed into another ship. As coincidence would have it, the second ship was VENOIL's sister VENPET, traveling in ballast in the opposite direction. Both supertankers had been built at the same yard in Japan at a cost of $28 million each; both were owned by the Bethlehem Steel Corp., and chartered to the Gulf Oil Corp.

    The VENOIL heaved its bulbous bow into the VENPET's side, leaving a gash 45 ft. deep and 180 ft. long just above the waterline. Both vessels burst into flames. In the VENOIL, the fire was luckily confined to the ship's fuel tanks and kept away from its flammable cargo. Even so, flames shot 200 ft. into the air, and the billowing smoke was visible for 15 miles.

    Most of the crew members from the ships took to lifeboats, but some leaped into the water; all but two were rescued. One of them was plucked out of the shark-infested sea by Harold Mockford, a fearless helicopter pilot who also flew through flame and smoke to save 13 men who had been trapped aboard the VENOIL The rest of the survivors were rescued by two passing British merchant ships.

    Once the crews were safe, the biggest question was the extent of oil loss and the damage to sea life. The principal ooze, from the VENPET's fuel reserves, formed an ocean slick six miles long and two miles wide. Fortunately, the VENOIL's oil compartments were not punctured; a strong southwesterly wind, moreover, prevented the oil from drifting toward South Africa's coastal holiday beaches 22 miles away.

    VENOIL in the sea off Cape Town being towed to Japan in 1977

    Although the area around the tip of South Africa has some of the globe's busiest sea lanes, through which tankers haul about 90% of the oil heading westward from the Persian Gulf, the modern navigation equipment aboard the ships should have prevented the crash. One South African official speculated that the vessels had closed in deliberately to allow their crewmen to exchange greetings. If that was true, he said, the crash of the supertankers was surely "the world's most expensive handshake."

    Re: VENOIL & VENPET - Two Sisters Met For The World Most Expensive Handshake ...

    Thank you very much for bringing light to this story - very fascinating to read and learn about!
    With best regards from Jan-Olav Storli

    Administrator and Owner of CaptainsVoyage.
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      Re: VENOIL & VENPET - Two Sisters Met For The World Most Expensive Handshake ...

      You're welcome. Nice story that ends with apparent good sometimes.