The Canadian sub HMCS Chicoutimi, previously the British HMS Upholder, lost power after a fire Tuesday night.
A Canadian submarine was drifting without power in heavy seas off the coast of Scotland on Tuesday night after a fire knocked out its diesel engines and injured nine crew members.
HMCS Chicoutimi, one of four trouble-plagued secondhand submarines that Canada bought from Britain, was on its way to Halifax with 57 people on board when the fire broke out in an electrical panel.
A senior Canadian official, speaking at 2:10 p.m. (1810 GMT) Ottawa time, said a British towing vessel would take between 12 to 14 hours to reach the submarine.
“The boat is without power and has only limited means of communicating at this time,” Navy Commodore Tyrone Pyle told reporters in Halifax, saying winds in the area were greater than 30 knots (35 mph, 55 km/h).
“The seas are rough and with the submarine on the surface they (the crew) are going to have some discomfort from rolling and tossing,” Pyle said, answering “No” when asked whether there had been any danger of losing the craft.
Although the fire was quickly put out, the submarine had to surface to get rid of the smoke. Nine crew members suffered the effects of smoke inhalation.
The Chicoutimi is non-nuclear powered and carries no nuclear warheads. Canada does not have nuclear weapons.
Pyle said the submarine was 125 miles (200 km) west of the Scottish coast. A British spokesman earlier said the craft was some 80 miles (135 km) off the northwest Irish coast.
A Royal Air Force Nimrod patrol plane and three Royal Navy ships were on their way to the scene in case an evacuation was needed, but this was unlikely, the British spokesman said.
The fire is the latest in a long line of problems to hit the submarines, which have been plagued by serious mechanical mishaps such as cracks in the diesel exhaust valves and a number of leaks. They are mostly confined to port.
Ottawa insists it got a good deal when it agreed to buy the second-hand submarines from Britain for C$750 million ($595 million) in 1998. But opposition legislators say the purchase reflects incompetence by the Liberal government.
“I do not believe we purchased substandard equipment … the price was very attractive to Canada,” said Defence Minister Bill Graham, who nevertheless admitted that the fire was an “important problem.”
“Other ships have had fires in the past and no doubt there will be fires on board ships in the future — this is something that our professional mariners are capable of managing … There are risks in being in our Navy,” he told reporters.
Graham said the submarine would return to the Scottish port of Faslane for a detailed probe into the fire.
Copyright 2004 by Reuters. All rights reserved.