33 injured after research ship topples while in drydock in Edinburgh, Scotland

The American-owned research vessel Petrel in 2018 (Photo: RV Petrel official Facebook page)
The American-owned research vessel Petrel in 2018 (Photo: RV Petrel official Facebook page)

Authorities in Scotland have confirmed that 33 people suffered varying degrees of injury after a foreign-owned research vessel toppled over while in drydock in the capital Edinburgh on Wednesday, March 22.

The research vessel Petrel, owned by the US Navy's Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC), had gotten dislodged from its drydock at the Imperial Dock in Edinburgh's Leith port district and toppled over by 45 degrees on the morning (local time) of Wednesday.

Emergency services soon after attended at the location at Imperial Dock, and a multi-agency response was co-ordinated by Police Scotland.

The Scottish Ambulance Service took 15 people to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, four to the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, and two to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife. The remaining 12 injured individuals were treated on-site.

Edinburgh Police officials said that, at around 13:20, all casualties were confirmed as being removed from the area and everyone accounted for.

Edinburgh Police's Superintendent Mark Rennie assured that there is "no risk to the wider public" and enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the mishap.

Petrel has been in long-term moorage since June 2020 after the crew decided to cancel all future sailings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The vessel arrived in Edinburgh the following September and has been in lay-up ever since.

In October 2022, while still in lay-up, the vessel was purchased by the US Navy for operation by Texas-based subsea engineering company Oceaneering International.

Petrel was formerly owned by the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Under its previous owners, the vessel was used in the discoveries of numerous historical shipwrecks.

In 2019, Petrel and its crew discovered a record total of 14 World War II shipwrecks including those of the Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga. That same year, the vessel located the ferry Doña Paz and the oil tanker Vector, which were both sunk after they collided with each other in Philippine waters on December 20, 1987, with an estimated death toll of 4,386 in what has been called the deadliest maritime disaster to occur during peacetime.

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