Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 May 2000



(2000), "Marine", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited



5 January 1999 - Jakarta, Indonesia

A press report, of above date, states - A report from Jakarta states: 24 persons are missing after vessel Medan Ekspres sank off the southern coast of Sumatra on 1 January, it was reported today. Col. Nuranto, chief of the local navy base in Palembang, said sea and air searches have failed to find traces of the vessel or her passengers. He did not specify the departure port or the destination of the vessel.

13 January 1999 - Philippines

Families of 19 missing Filipino crewmen have appealed to Philippine president Joseph Estrada for help after claiming that their relatives may be being held hostage by pirates. The men were on board m.v. Pixy Marzo that disappeared in the South China Sea on 8 December. Speaking for the families, Fr Savino Bernardi, director and chaplain of Apostleship of the Sea in Manila, said there was a strong possibility that the vessel was hijacked and her crew held hostage. "The families are hoping that President Estrada will formally communicate a request to neighbouring countries to be on the look-out for the missing vessel", he said. "The South China Sea has a high incidence of piracy and we are not discounting the possibility that pirates are hiding the vessel along the coastline", he added. The Catholic priest, who heads the ministry caring for distressed Filipino seamen, said that the families of the missing crew had earlier approached the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Fr Bernardi claimed, however, that these government agencies "seem helpless" in determining the fate of the missing vessel and crew. On 7 December, Pixy Marzo left Hong Kong with a cargo of China clay bound for Keelung. The vessel was officered and crewed entirely by Filipinos. Two days later a distress signal was picked up by the ship's agents in Hong Kong and Manila indicating that the vessel was encountering very rough seas. Shortly after all communications with the vessel ceased. Rescue vessels and aircraft were dispatched from Hong Kong and a three-day search in the area where the vessel sent her last message yielded no clues as to the fate of Pixy Marzo. No vessel-related debris was found. Efforts by a search and rescue vessel from the Guangzhou Maritime Search and Salvage Unit, using radio imaging equipment, also produced negative results. Fr Bernardi noted that until the fate of the vessel and her crew were determined, claims for death and insurance benefits by crew members' families would not be entertained by the courts.

16 January 1999 - Canada

Compensation claims for the m. bulk carrier Flare disaster, in which 21 seafarers died a year ago today, will be heard in Canada following a protracted legal battle mounted by the International Transport Workers Federation against her owners and the UK P&I club. The move opens the way for substantially higher awards than if the case had been heard in flag state Cyprus, as the owners and the club wanted. Meanwhile, the ITF has attacked the owners and the club for "abusing the vulnerable position" of seafarers and victims' families. It claims that no money has been paid on the negligence claims to the four survivors or victims' relatives. The club counters by claiming that it has settled compensation claims "in excess of contractual amounts" in 14 cases at a cost of more than $2 million. Flare broke in two, apparently suddenly, in the Gulf of St Lawrence on 16 January 1998. Legal proceedings on behalf of the victims, assisted by the ITF, began in Canada in March. Jurisdiction was challenged by the owners and the club. After five months of wrangling, the court decided the case should be heard in Canada. The survivors and families were awarded costs. The Canadian courts must now decide the validity of crew claims that the vessel was negligently maintained and repaired with an inadequate safety and lifesaving regime. Survivors are claiming for damages, injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, while victims' families are seeking compensation for loss of financial support.

27 January 1999 - Poland

Polish state maritime company Polskie Linie Oceaniczne and its subsidiary Euroafrica Shipping Lines have been found responsible for the 1993 sinking of ro-ro m. ferry Jan Heweliusz, the Gdynia maritime court of appeal ruled yesterday in a final verdict. The maritime authority in Szczecin, as well as the master of the vessel, Andrzej Ulasiewicz, also carried responsibility for the catastrophe, the court said. At the first hearing in 1994, only Capt Ulasiewicz had been found guilty. The vessel capsized in hurricane conditions soon after leaving Swinoujscie for Ystad, and later sank. She was owned by Gdynia-based Polskie Linie Oceaniczne and bareboat chartered to Euroafrica. The court said Jan Heweliusz had been in need of repairs and should not have been allowed to leave the port due to safety faults, the most serious of which was the state of the stern gate. In its investigation of the incident, the court found that a few days before the disaster, the ferry's stern gate had been damaged in a contact with the dockside as the vessel manoeuvred at Ystad, causing a gap which had been inadequately repaired. This had produced a leak.

8 May 1999 - Barisal, Bangladesh

At least 300 people were missing after ferry Dwipkanya sank in the Meghna River in southern Bangladesh today, officials said. They said the ferry, carrying some 400 passengers, went down in a whirlpool during a storm near Lakhsmipur, 175km from Dhaka. "We don't have any idea about how many people were drowned or dead. We have just sent a rescue team", a Government official said. "The ferry tilted on one side and sank in midstream immediately after being caught in a tropical storm at 00.11hrs, 05.00, UTC", survivor Bazlur Rahman said. He said about 100 passengers swam ashore. "The ferry was overcrowded and was running at speed in heavy current", he added. Kazi Wahidozzaman, owner of the ferry and proprietor of Sripur Transport Company at Barisal, said the Dwipkanya was capable of carrying 250 people. He did not elaborate.9 May 1999 - Poor weather conditions have hampered attempts to find as many as 300 people missing after ferry Dwipkanya sank in a tropical storm in southern Bangladesh, officials said today. The ferry, believed to have been carrying about 400 passengers, went down yesterday in a whirlpool in the Meghna River near Lakhsmipur, 175km from Dhaka. About 100 passengers swam ashore but others remained unaccounted for, officials in the coastal town of Barisal said. However, State-run Bangladesh Betar (radio) and Bangladesh television said 50 people were missing after about 100 had swum to safety. "Rescue teams have not been able to reach the spot while salvage vessel Hamza was also held back by a rain storm last night", said Abdul Huq, deputy director of Inland Water Transport Authority. "Hamza will start from Barisal as soon as weather has improved this morning but it will take at least until 14.00 hrs to reach the accident spot by covering a 65-mile distance", he said. "The ferry was overcrowded and was running at speed in heavy current", survivor Bazlur Rahman said. "The ferry tilted on one side and sank in midstream immediately after being caught in a tropical storm at 11.00 hrs", he added.10 May 1999 - Bangladesh today resumed efforts to find up to 100 passengers missing since Saturday and salve sunken ferry Dwipkanya after an overnight recess, officials said. Rescuers yesterday found 11 dead bodies floating in the Meghna river near Lakhsmipur, they said. "Salvage vessel Hamza located the ferry some 200 feet downstream from where she sank", one official at Lakhsmipur said. "Efforts to bring the ferry up and see if any dead bodies were stuck in it started this morning. Hamza suspended her operations last night due to bad weather conditions and darkness", he added. The officials said hopes for finding anyone alive had almost faded away. State-run Bangladesh Television said last night that some 100 people were missing.11 May 1999 - Thirty-five bodies have been found from ferry Dwipkanya that sank three days ago and was salvaged today, officials said. They said around 100 other people missing since Saturday (8 May) were believed to have drowned as well. The ferry was salvaged after two days of efforts, which were interrupted by bad weather and strong river currents.

11 February 1999 - Brasilia, Brazil

At least three people died and dozens were missing after a boat capsized on a rough stretch of a river in Brazil's Amazon last night, police officials said today. Police sources differed about the number missing. One official said there were roughly 33 people unaccounted for, although another police spokesman earlier put the figure at between 60 and 70. "According to the information which has reached us, the boat was carrying 150 passengers", said Lt-Col. Moacyr Carioca, spokesman for the police in Amazonas state. Police were investigating the cause of the accident amid preliminary reports that the 105ft Ana Maria VIII was packed full of people. Officials said the boat was carrying two cars in addition to the passengers but could not confirm the maximum capacity of the vessel. Local news agency Agencia Estado quoted survivor Armando Silva do Nascimento, 22, as saying the accident was caused by strong currents but that the vessel was also overcrowded. Officials said they were also looking into unconfirmed reports that a large number of people were watching a televised soccer match on the upper deck of the boat and had tilted the vessel while cheering a goal. The accident occurred at 22.00, local time, on a turbulent stretch of the Madeira River about 380 miles from the state capital Manaus, said Carioca. Rescuers had found the bodies of a woman and two children so far, he said. A fire department source later said 117 survivors had arrived in Manicore, a town close to the site of the accident. A number of people had been able to put on life-savers and a boat passing at the time of the accident had picked up others, said Lt-Col. Nilson Pereira da Silva, spokesman for the police's fire fighting unit in Manaus. Between five and six professional divers have been sent from Manaus to the area to look for other survivors, he added. But officials were cautious about predicting the number who might have managed to swim to shore, noting the accident happened at night on a river known for strong currents and poor visibility. The vessel was roughly halfway through its journey from Porto Velho, in the southern Amazon state of Rondonia, to Manaus on a route which is a major corridor for grain exports.12 February 1999 - Divers plunged into murky Amazonian water today in search of 33 bodies missing after a crowded vessel capsized on a turbulent stretch of river earlier this week, police said. Emergency teams put the official death toll at six today after pulling the body of a young woman to shore. Police say most of those missing are children between the ages of two and 17. "We doubled the number of divers today after what we heard from the survivors", said Sgt Minerval Sevalho de Menezes, a police officer in the northern state of Amazonas. The accident happened on Wednesday evening (10 February) about 380 miles south-west of the state capital Manaus when the vessel, the Ana Maria VIII, was about halfway through her journey up the Madeira River, a tributary of the Amazon. The 129 survivors of the wreck believe many of their missing family and friends were trapped on board the 105ft vessel, which was swallowed whole by the river in less than five minutes, Sevalho de Menezes said. The three-storey vessel sank more than 100ft to the bottom of the river. Police said survivors blamed the accident on the vessel's operators, who are accused of jamming too many people and too many bags on board the vessel. Since no official records exist, police have relied on the testimony of survivors to estimate that about 170 passengers were on the Ana Maria VIII before she sank. The vessel's official capacity was 165 passengers. Authorities believe the master lost control while trying to avoid a funnel-like current, a frequent occurrence on curving stretches of the river. The state has despatched a helicopter, two marine salvage boats, a medical team and 11 divers to the site to recover bodies and search for survivors. However, the cloudy, turbulent waters confined efforts to daylight hours, the governor's office said.17 February 1999 - Divers plunged into murky Amazonian waters for the seventh successive day today as hopes faded of recovering 34 bodies that have been missing since the sinking of vessel Ana Maria VIII last week. "There is a very good chance we won't be able to find many more bodies", said Sgt Minerval Sevalho de Menezes, a police officer based in a remote jungle outpost in the northern state of Amazonas. "It is hard to tell but we think most of the dead were probably swept away by the river", he said. Police said this morning that the body count so far was 18, meaning the potential death toll could be at least 52. Most of the missing were children aged between two and 17, they said. The accident happened one week ago when the Ana Maria VIII capsized, about halfway through her journey up the Madeira River, a tributary of the Amazon. Since no official records exist, police have continually raised the number of estimated dead on the vessel as they recover bodies of lone passengers or whole families who were not reported missing. According to the latest estimates more than 180 passengers were on board the vessel, which had an official capacity of 165. However, survivors say she was also carrying large amounts of cargo, including two automobiles. Menezes said the boat was not permitted to carry passengers and cargo at the same time. He said a team of 11 divers would continue searching for bodies, adding that the state governor's office had sent for equipment to raise the vessel from the riverbed and drag her ashore. "We hope we can pull the boat out of the water by the end of this week", Menezes said.

17 February 1999 - Antwerp, Belgium

Following received from "Fairplay" dated 16 February: Antwerp Nautical Court has found Cypriot owner of m. bulk carrier Albion Two responsible for massive corrosion problem that led to catastrophic collapse of the vessel's structure. Findings by surveyors appointed by the court have led to the rejection of claims by the owner Oinousse Navigation that heavy weather, overloading or explosion caused the loss. Instead the court has found the owner's failure to adequately maintain the 21-year-old vessel's corroding structure to be the cause of the loss. Two years after the loss families have not received compensation from the owners or their P&I insurers Sphere Drake. (Note - Albion Two was reported overdue on 5 March 1997. Following a search which lasted several days, wreck of vessel positively identified in lat. 48 18.SN, long. 06 08.7W at depth of 130m.)

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