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25 September 2003 – Express Samina (Greece)
A local newspaper reports tomorrow is the third anniversary of the sinking of passenger ro/ro Express Samina and it is still not known who will stand trial and what charges they will face in connection with a tragedy that cost the lives of 80 passengers and crew. The ferry sank quickly on a stormy night on 26 September 2000 after it struck a well-marked outcrop of rocks just outside the port of Paros. Responding to a national sense of shock, Prime Minister Costas Simitis promised that “full light will be cast (on the incident) as swiftly as possible and those responsible for the tragedy will be brought to trial.” But what has followed has been a legal roundabout, with charges of varying seriousness being thrown at crew members and representatives of the ship-owning company, Minoan Flying Dolphins (now known as Hellenic Flying Dolphins). The initial investigation took 2 ½ years to complete and the first indictment (No. 71/2002) handed down by the Aegean Appeals Court called for five crew members to face misdemeanour charges while MFD representatives should face no charges. Then Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustallakis proposed that the captain and another three officers face felony charges, as should the legal representatives of ship owners Minoan Flying Dolphins. The judge who investigated the case had sent six of the ship's officers and company representatives to trial on felony charges, but this had been overruled by a council of appeals court judges. Now their ruling, too, was overruled and an appeals court judge made a new proposal, calling for Captain Vassilis Yiannakis, First Mate Tassos Psychogios, Second Mate Yiannis Triandafyllos and First Engineer Gerassimos Skiadaressis to be tried on criminal charges of murder with possible premeditated malice. The Supreme Court said MFD representatives Costas Klironomos and Nikos Vikatos should be tried for endangering the passengers' lives. With the new proposals the two officials would also be indicted. Reliable sources said that a new prosecutor's proposal would be made to the Aegean Council of Appeal Court Judges.
22 December 2003 – Nine people will stand trial over the sinking of a Greek ferry in which 80 people were killed in September 2000, a regional court said on 18 December. Passenger ro/ro Express Samina sank off the Aegean resort island of Paros with 500 people on board after hitting a well charted islet.
It was one of Greece's worst maritime disasters in decades. The master is charged with manslaughter with possible malice. He has said he was taking a nap at the time of the crash because he was unwell. His second-in-command, who said bad weather prevented him from steering away from the rocks, will also stand trial along with three other crew members, all accused of dereliction of duty and putting passengers at risk. Two then- representatives of the vessel's owner, Minoan Flying Dolphins, part-owned by Minoan Lines, face charges of insufficient care regarding the 35-year old vessel's rescue equipment and the crew's rating. Two coastguard inspectors are accused of falsely certificating ship rescue equipment, as being in good order. No date has yet been set for the trial.
26 September 2003 – Pearl River, China
Twelve workers were dead or missing after a vessel under construction broke free of its restraining block and plunged into southern China's Pearl River, state press has reported. Two were confirmed dead and ten were missing after the accident on Wednesday afternoon (24 September) at the Yuexin Shipyard in Guangzhou city, capital of Guangdong province, the China Daily reported. The ten missing workers were believed to be trapped in the hull of the vessel, the report said. The 80 m long fishing vessel was almost 90 per cent complete when the accident occurred. The vessel was being made for a Dutch company, it said.
27 September 2003 – Hualien No.1 (Taiwan)
The wreckage of general cargo Hualien No.1 that went missing while carrying gravel from Hualien to Taipei more than 3 years back has been detected off the coast of northern Taiwan, professors from National Taiwan University (NTU) reported yesterday. NTU professors said that the wreckage of the ship is lying under 82 m of water off the village of Tsaoli.
On 28 February 2000, the ship, carrying 5,300 tons of gravel, departed from Hualien Harbour en-route to Taipei Harbour at 1,730 h. The ship had 21 crewmen on-board, including 14 Taiwanese and seven Burmese. Travelling at an estimated speed of 10 knots on a course that kept it 3-5 nautical miles away from the coast, the ship was scheduled to reach Tamshui at around six o'clock next day, but failed to arrive. Military search and rescue helicopters scoured the vessel's sea route for days, but found no trace of the ship and no evidence of the oil slick that usually marks the spot where a ship is found. What was most mystifying was that the automatic distress beacon did not sent out a signal. A check with the communications record of the Chunghwa Telecom showed that its base in Sanchi, Taipei, received the last communication from Hualien No.1 in the form of a cellular phone call from one of the crew. One year after the ship's disappearance, local people reported finding lifebelts from Hualien No.1, between Chinshan and Shihmen, as well as items from life-rafts, leading the investigators to believe that the ship sank off Fukueichiao in northern Taiwan. In August this year, fishermen at Yeliu reported large shoals of fish since March in areas off Tsaoli. The fishermen used fish detection instruments and discovered two locations that could be the ship's final resting place, but were unable to confirm their findings as their instruments were not sophisticated enough. Wang Chou, Professor of NTU's Institute of Oceanology, said that upon hearing the news, Professor Yu Hohsin, who was on another research ship at the time, conducted an investigation, whereupon he and other experts were able to confirm that it was Hualien No.1. Meanwhile, an official of the now defunct East Shipping Corp., which owned Hualien No.1, asked the government to help retrieve the bodies of the crew. Liu Kang-sheng, a former manager of East Shipping, said that the company disbanded after completing its duty by compensating the families of the crew. Liu said that the company had already claimed the insurance money for the ship and had no rights to the wreckage, which now belongs to the insurance company. Over the years, the families of the crew have staged a number of protests over the government's failure to locate the ship.
23 October 2003 – Andrew J. Barberi (USA)
New York City authorities yesterday moved to fire the master of ferry Andrew J. Barberi after he refused to meet the federal, investigators for a second day. “We are drawing up charges as we speak based on his refusal to cooperate,” said Iris Weinshall, City Transportation Commissioner. Michael Gansas, who supervised the pilot operating the ferry when the crash occurred, had refused to meet with National Transportation Safety Board investigators on Tuesday (21 October), prompting federal officials to issue a subpoena. Yesterday, Gansas's attorney, Stephen Sheinbaum, said his client remained too traumatised to speak with investigators and was under medical care. Gansas failed to show up at the Staten Island hotel where he was supposed to meet with NTSB officials. “Mr Gansas remains with his family as they try to deal with the tragic consequences of last week's events,” Sheinbaum said. Sheinbaum added that Gansas plans to cooperate when he is “legally and medically free to do so.” Hours before the scheduled meeting, Weinshall said she notified Gansas that he was suspended effective immediately over his refusal to cooperate. The NTSB issued a statement late yesterday saying it has asked Gansas's attorneys for documents “supporting their claim at the master was medically unable to appear.” “As recently as Tuesday night, the attorneys indicated that the master would appear at the appointed time and place,” the NTSB said. The master's whereabouts at the time of the 15 October crash are considered a vital element of the probe because he could have provided backup if, as investigators suspect, the Pilot, Richard Smith, blacked out at the throttle before the ferry hit a pier, killing ten people and injuring dozens. Smith, the Master's Assistant, remained in critical condition and unable to talk after attempting suicide, his attorney said. State Representative Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island, said that federal investigators told him that “all indications are there was another crew member in the wheelhouse prior to the impact” but it was not the master. The district attorney's office is also investigating the crash. “I think the crux of this investigation is going to hinge upon the information provided by the two captains,” Fossella said, “and that has yet to take place.” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city would adopt reforms including requiring an extra person in the pilot's cabin while the ferry crosses New York Harbour. Current rules require a second person only when docking. The ferries will also be outfitted with new radios and global positioning technology, he said. As of yesterday afternoon, five people had filed their intentions to sue the city, including Debra Castro, who had both her legs amputated during the crash and is seeking $120 million. Sheinbaum said Gansas has earned commendations for saving lives, including “once leaping into the water and putting his own life at risk.” The city Department of Transportation, which maintains the ferry fleet, confirmed that Gansas was commended in 1991.
21 November 2003 – The master of ferry Andrew J. Barberi, which crashed last month has been fired by the city's Department of Transportation. In a brief statement last night, DOT Spokesman Tom Cocola said Michael Gansas “will not be on the Department of Transportation's payroll” today.
“While Captain Gansas is free to pursue remedies available to him, the DOT is committed to expediting the present phase of the grievance process and in reaching a resolution as soon as possible,” the statement said. The department suspended Gansas without pay on 22 October for refusing to co-operate with investigators probing the 15 October crash that killed ten passengers and injured dozens.
Gansas invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he appeared before investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board. In a statement to police following the accident, Gansas said he had tried to pull Assistant Capt. Richard Smith, who was piloting the vessel, from the helm to take control before the vessel crashed into a concrete maintenance pier in Staten Island. However, city officials have said Gansas was not in the pilothouse at the time, a violation of city regulations.
26 November 2003 – New York City officials today fired the master of ferry Andrew J. Barberi for refusing to cooperate with investigators. Michael Gansas has said he is still too traumatised to speak with federal investigators about the 15 October crash, which killed ten people and injured dozens. He was suspended on 22nd October. Gansas' lawyers said they would seek to take the case to independent arbitration. Attorneys Catherine Foti and Edward Gleason issued a statement calling the master's firing “a travesty of justice” and “an effort by the city to deflect attention from themselves.” Assistant Capt. Richard Smith, who was at the vessel's controls, told investigators that he passed out before the vessel crashed into a concrete pier.
Gansas was not in the wheelhouse, according to one of the vessel's mates, an apparent violation of a city rule requiring both captains' presence during docking. Gansas' attorneys have said that rule was not communicated to ferry staff or enforced by city transportation department managers. The city Department of Transportation's Labour Relations specialist today upheld the agency's recommendation to fire Gansas, whose whereabouts during the crash remain unclear. “Anyone who is going to obstruct this city's efforts to make ferry transportation safer has no place in our workforce,” said Mayor's Spokesman Ed Skyler. Authorities have said Gansas and Smith could face federal charges. Smith was interviewed by US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf's staff last week. He remains suspended without pay, but the transportation department agreed with a request from federal prosecutors to delay a preliminary hearing scheduled for Friday (28 November) that would have been the first step toward firing him.
22 November 2003 – Km Sinar Akaba (Indonesia)
Ten people who were thought to be on their way home to celebrate Idul Fitri are feared dead after two ships collided in rough seas in waters off Southeast Sulawesi on Thursday night (20 November). The victims, nine of whom are missing believed drowned, were among at least 30 passengers on vessel KM Sinar Akaba, which collided with fishing KM Adidas off Wawoni island on Thursday night. Kendiri Harbour Chief Abdul Rachman said KM Sinar Akaba was travelling from Kendari to Wawoni island when the collision took place. “KM Sinar Akaba sank as a result of the collision while KM Adidas managed to arrive safely in Kendari,” he told DPA yesterday. Rescue workers assisted by local fishermen were still searching for the missing people. Kendari Police are investigating the cause of the accident and are questioning KM Sinar Akaba's captain, Autu, 35. Rachman said the ship was illegally chartered and left Kendari Port without the proper permits or lights. KM Adidas was manned by four crew members and was not carrying passengers, he said. “It is common here for people to illegally charter boats to go to neighbouring islands for the Idul Fitri holiday,” he was quoted by AFP as saying. One survivor, Asri, said KM Sinar Akaba left Kendari Port for Roko-Roko harbour in Wawoni island in bad weather.
27 November 2003 – Lake Mai-Ndombe, Democratic Republic of Congo
At least 163 people have drowned after two ferries collided on a lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and scores more were missing, the government said today. A total of 222 people had escaped from the disaster involving two ferries carrying an estimated 450-500 people, said Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. “It was two vessels that collided due to a strong storm. The latest information we received at 0830 (0730, UTC) this morning is that we're talking about 163 dead, that's bodies found,” she said.
Nzuzi said the accident occurred on Tuesday (25 November) during a storm. She said the search for survivors was continuing. The disaster happened on Lake Mai-Ndombe, which means “Black Water” and is about 400 km from Kinshasa. It covers 2,300 km2, but doubles or triples in size during the rainy season. The western regions of the vast central African country have been deluged by heavy downpours as the rainy season gets into full swing.
18 December 2003 – Dina K. (North Korea)
A “Syrian” cargo ship (general cargo Dina K.), Alexandria (Alexandretta, Iskenderun) for Lebanon, cargo sand for construction, has sunk off Lebanon's northern coast, leaving the 11-man crew missing, a Syrian port official said today. The ship, owned by Syrian businessman Abdul-Razaq Kanafani, sank on Sunday (14 December) 45 km west of Tripoli, the official said. The accident was blamed on strong winds and high waves. The missing crew members included seven Syrians, a Romanian and an Egyptian. Search operations were suspended today due to strong winds of more than 70 km/h, said the official.
23 December 2003 – Piary (Philippines)
Over 70 people were feared dead after a ferry disappeared in rough seas in the Philippines, where rescuers have virtually given up hope of finding survivors from landslides that have claimed some 200 lives. The 63-ton Piary disappeared in the Sulu Sea off the southern coast of Palawan island yesterday after large waves smashed a hole in the vessel's hull, the coastguard said. Its last distress call informed the shore that the vessel was about to sink and that its 68 passengers as well as the crew had donned lifejackets, said the coastguard district commander Captain Godofredo Mandal. A coastguard spokesman said that vessels of that size would normally have at least ten crew. Anxious relatives swamped the coastguard station in nearby Brooke's Point. The ferry had come from the Cagayan de Sulu island group east of Palawan. Naval reconnaissance aircraft failed to locate the vessel or any survivors, while navy and coastguard vessels battled huge waves stirred up by seasonal north-easterly winds that have brought torrential rain across the southern half of the country. Coastguard Chief Rear Admiral Arthur Gosingan ordered small inter-island vessels to remain at port until the monsoon winds eased. The alert followed a gruelling weekend, after heavy rain triggered mudslides which are feared to have killed more than 200 people across the country.
Local sources say hopes of finding any more people alive in the disaster are fading fast. Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has asked the US to help in rescue efforts following the landslides, which first hit on Friday (19 December) and which have been blamed, in part, on illegal logging. The Philippines civil defence authorities said 214 people were dead or missing. Bad weather has hampered rescue operations, and the focus is switching to the recovery of corpses. Defence Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that residents in San Francisco on the island of Panaon had been given permission to cover the rubble created by a massive landslide there, converting it into a mass grave. Around 100,000 people have been displaced by the landslides, and the authorities are struggling to feed and shelter them amid the persistent rain. Rosette Lerias, the Governor of Southern Leyte province, the worst affected region said cutting down trees from the slopes above settlements had loosened the soil.
Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun said forests had been replaced by coconut plantations in the 1920s and 1930s, and that these do not hold the soil as well as deep-rooted trees. The municipalities of San Francisco, Liloan and Maasin in southern Leyte have been particularly badly hit, while other casualties were reported in the Agusan and Surigao areas of neighbouring Mindanao island. An official there quoted survivors as saying they heard a great noise from the mountains, and that shortly afterwards a current of mud swept down on top of them. The weather lifted briefly today, allowing military vessels to deliver food, medicines, and equipment to Tacloban on Leyte island. From there the supplies were due to be taken by sea to Panaon, home to about 50,000 impoverished farmers.
23 December 2003 – Twenty people have been rescued from a ferry which sank in the Philippines – but 55 others are still missing. Officials said the survivors were found by a cargo ship in rough waters off the western island of Palawan. The 63-ton ferry Piary sank about 100 km (60 miles) away from its destination – Brookes Point on Palawan island. A Panamanian- registered cargo ship picked up 20 survivors from waters between the Philippine island of Balabac and the Malaysian island of Bangui. The ferry, which vanished after rough seas smashed a hole in its side, was reported to be carrying 68 passengers and seven crew. There was no word on more than 50 people still missing.