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Saturday, September 4, 1999 Published at 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK

UK: Scotland

Coastguard mission crosses continent

Clyde coastguards contacted their Shetland colleague for help

A linguist living in the Shetland Isles and UK coastguards helped in the rescue of a stricken vessel in the Black Sea.

Clyde Coastguard, based near Glasgow, played a key role in the Russian operation after picking a message from a Maltese boat saying that it was being abandoned by its crew.

They alerted Shetland-based auxiliary coastguard Derek Herning, who speaks 30 languages, with an urgent request to contact the coastguard in Odessa.

He told them the ship was in trouble and they sent a launch out to help.

Mr Herning said: "I was called after midnight and told the vessel had a cracked hull and could I help.

"I had some trouble getting through, and eventually alerted Odessa to the problem. They sounded a wee bit surprised to be hearing from Scotland.

"He said they were sending out a launch, and it turned out the crew had decided not to abandon the ship but to try and beach her."

Mr Herning is a guide and translator and has featured in the Guiness Book of Records for his language skills.

He claims he is able to get by in about 30 languages, most of which he learned in Shetland.

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