Testimony of radio officer Anatoliy Krutkov

Sunday, 23 February 1986
0930 hours
MIKHAIL LERMONTOV PRELIMINARY INQUIRY
WITNESS: ANATOLIY KRUTKOV – RADIO OFFICER
(As interpreted by Boris Ashikhmin)

Q. Anatoliy, Please give me your full name, your date of birth and your address.

A. Anatoliy, 6 November 1946, C/- Baltic Shipping Company, 5 Mezhevoy Kanal, Leningrad, USSR, 194035.

Q. What are your qualifications?

A. I graduated from the Leningrad Marine School in 1966. On graduation, my qualification was Radio Operator, Second Class. In 1966, I was employed by the Baltic Shipping Company. From 1966 until 1971, I worked on cargo ships of the Baltic Shipping Company. 1971, I received a Diploma of Radio Operator, First Class, and from the same year to 1984, I was employed on the passenger ship, Alexander Pushkin. At that time my rank was Radio Operator, First Class. In November 1984 I was employed on the Mikhail Lermontov.

Q. How many Radio Officers are there on the Mikhail Lermontov, and what was your rank?

A. There are three Radio Officers, and one Chief Radio Officer.

Q. Does the Chief Radio Officer normally keep a radio watch?

A. The Chief Radio Officer does not usually keep watch. His duty is to carry out general supervisory duties.

Q. What was your watch on the Mikhail Lermontov on Sunday, 16 February 1986?

A. My watch was from 2000 hours to 2400 hours and from 0800 hours to 1200 hours.

Q. Do you have any other qualifications except a First Class Radio Operator’s certificate, such as radar or electronic qualifications?

A. No.

Q. On Sunday, 16 February 1986, at what time after leaving Picton did you proceed to the radio room?

A. When we left Picton it was not my watch and I was not in the radio room. I went to the radio room only after I felt shocks against the ship.

Q. Where were you at that time?

A. I had my afternoon tea, and at the moment of the shocks I was watching TV in Cabin 21, which was occupied by another Radio Operator. That cabin was adjacent to mine.

Q. In which part of the ship is Cabin 21 situated?

A. The sundeck, which is the deck below the bridge on the starboard side in the area of the funnel.

Q. In your mind, from which part of the ship did you feel the shocks?

A. I felt as if the whole ship shuddered, and then I noted the starboard list. I even noticed that a bottle of After Shave lotion fell from a shelf onto the deck. I picked it
Up and then rushed to the radio room.

Q. Before you felt these shocks, did you hear anything coming the ship’s public address system?

A. I did not hear anything.

Q. What is the radio call sign of the Mikhail Lermontov?

A. UQTT.

Q. Where is the main radio room on the Mikhail Lermontov situated?

A. It is situated on the bridge deck on the portside of the ship, not far from the chart room. There is a corridor between the chart room and the radio room with a door leading from the corridor to the radio room and a door leading from the corridor to the chart room.

Q. Apart from the main radio room, are there any other radio installations on the Mikhail Lermontov?

A. Besides the main radio room, we also have emergency radio room on the same deck, the entrance of which is on the starboard side. It is near the passengers’ night
Bar, at the forward end of the funnel.

Q. Is there other radio equipment there?

A. We have two battery rooms. Both of them are on the starboard side of the ship on the same deck. One is near the middle of the funnel, and one to the starboard side of the foremast. The batteries in these battery rooms are used for emergency radio power. Besides that we have radio installations in lifeboat No. 9.

Q. Was the radio in Lifeboat No 9 permanently kept in the lifeboat?

A. Yes.

Q. What frequencies was this radio capable of transmitting and receiving on?

A. In the 500 range for radiotelegraphy, and 2182 range for radiotelephony.

Q. As we have got no drawings of the ship at present, the photographs and sketches of the ship available to us show that the five lifeboats are all similar and open-type lifeboats. Had there been any alterations to these lifeboats since the time these photographs and sketches were made?

A. Yes, when the ship was in Riga during refit, approximately October 1985, the forward lifeboats on both sides – that is No.s 1 and 2 were removed and replaced by totally enclosed lifeboats.

Q. Apart from the main and emergency radio rooms and the radio installation in No. 9 lifeboat, are there any other emergency radios on the ship?

A. Yes, there are five portable emergency radios for the survival craft. Three of these were usually kept in the chart room, and the other two in the emergency radio room.

Q. Please now list all the radio equipment in the main radio room, as we have no drawings or full particulars

(Mr. Krutkov then drew sketches of the main radio room and emergency radio room, which are attached.)

Q. The radio in No. 9 lifeboat – where in the boat is it situated?

A. At this stage, Mr. Krutkov drew a sketch of the location of the station – attached.

Q. When was the last time you checked and tested this lifeboat radio?

A. According to our rules, all emergency radio installations are checked every time the ship leaves any port.

Q. Were the emergency radio installations checked before leaving Picton?

A. Yes, it was checked before the ship left Picton on Sunday, 16 February 1986 by a radio officer, Mr. Fyodorov.

Q. When you arrived in the main radio room after feeling the shocks, what did you observe there?

A. I saw the Operator on watch sitting at the radio operator’s post, which is marked on my sketch. After I arrived in the radio room, the Chief Radio Officer, Mr. Moskovkin, also arrived there. Then another operator, Mr. Fyodorov, arrived. So, at that time, the Chief Radio Officer and we three Radio Operators were all in the main radio room. Apart from the Chief Radio Officer and the three Radio Operators, there is also a Technician who is responsible for the maintenance of the television sets in the ship, and ship’s public address system. There is also an electrical engineer who is responsible for the maintenance of the electric and electronic navigation equipment,’ such as the radars, gyrocompass and magnavox satellite navigation system.

Q. When you were in Cabin No. 21 and felt the shocks, what was the exact time?

A. I do not know what the exact time was, but it was after 1700 hours.

Q. Please continue.

A. When we were all together in the main radio room, the Chief Radio Officer instructed us to check the radio equipment. He then instructed us to switch on the main receiver and the short-wave transmitter by the remote switch panel, and establish communications with Vladivostok. After that the Chief Radio Officer ordered the other two radio operators to check the equipment for which they were responsible – that is all the radio equipment in the ship, paying particular attention to the equipment in the emergency radio room.
Some time after the shocks, the general alarm was sounded. Then the Chief Radio Officer reported to the bridge by telephone that all the radio equipment had been checked and was ready for operation. Then we established communication with Vladivostok. That was my duty and I established contact with Vladivostok by radiotelegraphy on the main transmitter. We asked Radio Vladivostok to allot a separate frequency for subsequent radio communications. The calling frequency of my station UQTT was 22236 KHz and Vladivostok Station UFL was on the frequency 22345 KHz. The frequency allocated by UFL was 16955 KHz. for Vladivostok, and 22273 for my ship. After the general alarm was given, the Captain came to the radio room and asked for Mr. Ivanchishin’s telephone number in Wellington. It was Sunday, and we did not have Mr. Ivanchishin’s home telephone number, so we called the Soviet Embassy, and were told Mr. Ivanchishin’s home telephone number.

Q. When you contacted the Russian Embassy in Wellington, did you inform the Embassy of the ship’s emergency situation?

A. I am not sure, because the Chief Radio Officer was the person who contacted the Embassy. It seems to me that he did inform the Russian Embassy of the situation on the ship. Then the Chief Radio Officer contacted Mr. Ivanchishin by satellite radiotelephone. The Captain then spoke to Mr Ivanchishin, and told him that the ship had touched the bottom and gave Mr Ivanchishin the name of the place where the ship touched the bottom. It was agreed that they would keep in constant contact. When he finished talking to Mr Ivanchishin, the Captain left the main radio room. Some time after that the Captain returned to the main radio room and asked the Chief Radio Officer, who at that time was seated by the satellite radio¬telephone receiver, to establish contact with Leningrad. At that time I was seated at the radio operator post. The Chief Radio Officer established, by satellite radiotelephone, contact with Mr Chistov, the Deputy President of the Baltic Shipping Company, at his home telephone number. Mr Chistov is responsible for the safety of navigation service for the company. The Captain informed Mr Chistov that the ship had touched the bottom and that the water had entered the ship. He also gave the numbers of the frames where water was entering. I seem to remember these numbers were frames 100 to 170 approx¬imately. After this conversation was over the Captain left the radio room. Some time after, the Captain again returned to the radio room, asked for paper and began to write a radiogram. Again, it was addressed to Mr Chistov in Leningrad. After he wrote the radiogram, I started to transmit it to Vladivostok using the main transmitter. I have a copy of this radio¬telegram, and I will now read it:

0855 (Moscow time). Date, 16 February 1986. 0243 (No. of radiogram). (The number of words in the radio-telegram was not recorded because there was no time to do that). “VERY URGENT. RADIO LENINGRAD. CHZM (Call sign). MR CHISTOV. 16 FEBRUARY AT 0750 HOURS (Moscow time). (Text as follows): WAS CRUISING IN NEW ZEALAND SOUNDS UNDER PILOTAGE SPEED 15 KNOTS CO-ORDINATES 40594 SOUTH 74193 EAST. RECEIVED AN UNDERWATER SHOCK. WATER ENTERS INNER COMPARTMENTS. THE DRAFT BY THE BOW 14 METRES. LIST 12 DEGREES. THE FORWARD PART IS FLOODED. FRAMES 175 TO 105 UP TO WATER LINE. ANCHORED CO-ORDINATES 41014 SOUTH 174155 EAST. CONTINUE PUMPING OUT WATER AND FURTHER EXAMINATION. MASTER VOROBYOV.” End of message).

After we transmitted this message to Vladivostok, Vladivostok Radio confirmed its receipt, and we continued watching the Vladivostok frequency. I felt the list was increasing. Then the ship’s main power was cut. When the main power was cut, all power to the main radio equipment ceased.

Q. When the ship’s main power supply was cut, did the emergency lighting immediately come on?

A. There was lighting in the main radio room at all times, so the emergency power supply must have been in operation immediately the main power was cut. We stayed in the main radio room. One of the radio operators, Mr Derkachenko, was already in the emergency radio room. After the power failure the ship’s telephone, close by my position at the radio operator’s post, was also out of action. Then there was a command from the bridge by the ship’s public address system, to abandon the ship.

Q. Did you recognise the voice of the person who gave this command?

A. I cannot remember exactly, but it seems to me it was not the Captain. After that I went to the emergency radio room and told the operator, Mr Derkachenko, to take an emergency radio station and go with it to his lifeboat muster station. When I left the main radio room, the Chief Radio Officer was still there, together with Radio Operator, Mr Fyodorov. Then I went back to the main radio room. Some time after that the Chief Radio Officer told Mr Fyodorov and myself to take the radio log and go to our abandon ship muster stations.
Mr Fyodorov took the radio log and went to his lifeboat, which was No. 9 Lifeboat according to the ship’s muster list. I myself did not go to my muster station, which was No. 1 lifeboat, but instead went to the emergency radio room. When I arrived at the emergency radio room, the door to that room was open but no one else was in sight. From the emergency radio room I tried to establish communication with Vladivostok using the short-wave transmitter and the short-wave receiver on the same frequencies as before – that is 16955 for Vladivostok, and 22273 for the ship. After I established communication on that frequency the strength of the signal was very poor – scale approximately 1 to 2. There was strong atmospheric disturbance.

Q. What was the time of that communication with Vladivostok?

A. It was between 0920 and 0930, Moscow time, 16 February. I asked the Vladivostok operator to change to 12955 frequency, but there was the same atmospheric disturbance on that frequency as well, so I asked Vladivostok to return to frequency 16955. While I was tuning the emergency short-wave receiver to that frequency, Staff Captain, Mr. Melnik, called to me through the door of the emergency radio room to give a Mayday signal. His words were: “Give the SOS signal”. I did not have the exact co-ordinates for the ship’s position, and I transmitted the SOS signal on the ship’s emergency transmitter on frequency 22273. I also transmitted the message that the passengers and crew were abandoning ship into lifeboats. ¬

Q. What was the time of that transmission?

A. I do not know exactly.

Q. Please continue.

A. I am not sure that this signal reached Vladivostok because during my transmission, Vladivostok constantly interrupted to say that they were receiving a poor transmission. After transmitting the SOS signal I went to the area of the radio room, somewhere forward of the port door entrance the main radio room, and told the Captain that I had transmitted the SOS signal to Vladivostok.

Q. Where was the Captain stationed when you passed him this information?

A. The Captain, together with several other officers were on the port wing of the bridge. The Captain told me to abandon ship. I went down to the promenade deck on the port side and went down a ladder to tender No. 11, which was under the command of Mr Melnik. No. 11 tender at that time was positioned alongside the portside after embarkation door, and it was completely filled with passengers. Then I remained in that tender until we reached the rescue ship, Arahura. From my ship to the Arahura, our tender also towed some of the other lifeboats.

Q. When you embarked into No. 11 tender, were there passengers situated near the port after embarkation door?

A. I did not see any passengers there because I think the passengers were evacuated from another deck.

Q. Before or after your SOS transmission from the emergency radio room to Vladivostok, did you send any other distress messages by radiotelephony, radiotelegraphy, or VHF?

A. I personally did not send any other distress signals. There is a VHF radio situated at the portside of the wheelhouse and I understand from what the Chief Radio Officer was saying that the Captain was keeping Mr Ivanchishin informed of the ship’s situation using that VHF. As far as I know, apart from the SOS message I transmitted to Vladivostok, there were no other distress signals on radiotelegraphy, radiotelephony, or VHF.

Q. Thank you, Anatoliy, I have no further questions. Would you like to add something before concluding your statement?

A. That will be all.