The steel motor vessel Gomba Endeavour was launched from the yard of Maxagon Dockyard Co Ltd., Bombay (Yard No 448) in 1978. She measured 83.60m x 14.74m x 5.58m and her tonnage was 3674 gross, 1599 net tons. She was powered by a 12 cylinder Vee Oil 4SA diesel engine by Alpha Diesel A/S., Fredrickshaven delivering 3180 brake horse power. On her launch she was renamed as Balakram and with a subsequent change of ownership in 1980 she was briefly named Gomba Nile before she was acquired by Univan Ship Management Company of Limasol, Cypress who registered her under the ownership of Pacific Lily Ltd and named her Pacific Lily. In 1984 she was lengthened at the yard of Nederlandse Scheepsbouw BV, Amsterdam by the addition of extra cargo section taking her length to 107.68m x 14.74m x 5.46m and her tonnage was now 4348 gross tons, 3624 net tons. Finally, in 1984 she was purchased by the Green Lily Corporation of Monrovia and registered in Nassua, Bahamas as Green Lily.
On 14th November 1997 the Green Lily, now operating as a refrigerated cargo vessel, departed from Alesund, Norway loaded with frozen fish destined for Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Lagos, Nigeria. She arrived in Lerwick on the 17th to load more fish before setting off for Africa. At 9:00am on 18th she departed from Lerwick but soon ran into a south east force 7 which steadily increased to force 9 gusting force 10. Early in the morning of the 19th when she was in a position 15 miles south east of Bressay, a sea water line in the engine room fractured. The crew managed to bring the inflow of water under control and the pumps were started but after only a few minutes the main engine stopped. Attempts to restart the engine were unsuccessful and the ship was now drifting helpless in huge seas driven steadily to the north west towards the land.
Her distress messages were picked up by Shetland Coastguard who immediately sent out a ‘Pan Pan’ message followed soon after by a ‘Mayday Relay’ message. In Lerwick three tugs, harbour tug Tystie and the anchor handling tugs Gargano and Maersk Champion, prepared to head to the scene and a coastguard helicopter and the Lerwick lifeboat also responded.
Gargano was the first to reach the drifting ship and, with great difficulty, a line was attached but the line snapped after only 45 minutes as the Green Lily pitched and rolled in huge waves. An attempt by the coastguard helicopter Lima Charlie to lift off some of the crew was also abandoned with the ship’s movements making it too dangerous to drop a line to the deck. Tystie then managed to attach a second tow line but it too parted after only five minutes.
The captain of the Green Lily then ordered anchors lowered to try to slow down the inexorable drift towards Bressay allowing the lifeboat to pull alongside and take off five of the crew but she was forced to withdraw as the rolling of the ship was a serious threat to the lifeboat itself. Next, the Maersk Champion succeeded in picking up the starboard anchor chain and used this to turn her head into the wind but eventually this too snapped. Thankfully, before this, the coastguard helicopter had succeeded in taking of the remaining ten crew members. Sadly, the helicopter winchman Bill Deacon, who had remained on the deck until the men were safely winched to safety, was swept into the sea and lost. His body was recovered the following day off the South Isle of Gletness.
The Green Lily then drifted on finally coming ashore north of Bressay Light. The following day a search helicopter flew over the scene and reported some scattered wreckage but otherwise the Green Lily had broken up and disappeared beneath the waves.
The smashed and scattered wreckage of the Green Lily was reported at the subsequent inquiry to be lying in approximate position 60° 08.250’N, 001° 03.55’W. Divers have reported the wreckage spread over a wide area in depths of 10 – 20 metres.