Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
7 January 2004 – Joseph and Clara Smallwood (Canada)
A federal investigation into a fire on board East Coast passenger ro/ro Joseph and Clara Smallwood has uncovered numerous safety violations, newly disclosed documents show. Crew members were unfamiliar with the fire-detection system aboard the vessel when the blaze broke out 12 May last year, and the ferry lacked essential communications equipment for emergencies. Investigators also found that just ten days after the blaze, the ferry’s sister ship, Caribou, failed to provide basic safety announcements to passengers as required by law. The findings, part of a continuing inquiry by the Transportation Safety Board, echo complaints made in September by union leaders about lax safety aboard the four East Coast ferries operated by Marine Atlantic, a federal Crown corporation. Letters outlining the violations were obtained from the board under the Access to Information Act. The investigation was triggered by a tractor-trailer fire midship when the giant ferry was about 15 kilometres from its destination at Port aux Basques, Nfld. The blaze, which broke out shortly before midnight, spewed black smoke and heated up a deck. It was extinguished only after the ferry docked 35 minutes later and passengers were evacuated. There were no injuries, though two people were taken away by ambulance as a precaution. Safety board investigators determined that crew members did not understand how the alarm system worked, and there was “no indication that weekly fire drills address the operation of the fire detection system”. The inquiry also found there weren’t enough direct telephones to allow crew to speak with the bridge in emergencies. And portable radios were in short supply and ineffective on the vessel because the steel structures interfered with transmissions. Two investigators also travelled aboard Caribou to check on safety announcements, and heard none. The board was later told that no bilingual crew member was available so the announcement, required by law, was skipped. “Such safety announcements and appropriate videos provide extremely important safety information to passengers when delivered at the beginning of the voyage”, says an Aug 21 board letter to Marine Atlantic. On 9 September, a spokesman for the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents crew members, accused Marine Atlantic of compromising safety by cutting back on spending throughout the fleet. “The union is concerned about the travelling public”, Victor Tomiczek said at the time. “They think there’s a lot of things happening on these vessels that people should be aware of”. A spokeswoman for Marine Atlantic said the company is acting on the safety board’s concerns by purchasing new radios and other communications equipment, and is reinforcing with its crews the need to follow safety procedures rigorously. “Safety is our No. 1 priority, that’s the first thing in our mission statement”, Tara Laing said from St. John’s, Nfld. “Everything we’re doing and that was pointed out in our communications with the safety board is over and above what the Canada Shipping Act outlines”. Some of the new communications equipment is expected to be delivered within days, she added. The board has not yet completed its investigation, which could take a year or more. Marine Atlantic operates four ferries between Cape Breton and Newfoundland that carry about 500,000 passengers each year and about 90 per cent of the goods shipped to the island part of the province.
18 January 2004 – Andrew J. Barberi (USA)
The master of ferry Andrew J.Barberi wants the city to pay $250,000 for his legal fees. Michael Gansas filed a notice of claim with the city last week declaring his intent to sue for the fees. New York generally defends employees against legal actions that stem from their role as municipal workers. City lawyers have said Gansas forfeited that right by refusing to co-operate with investigators. Gansas declined to talk to investigators after the crash, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination. He incurred the legal expenses defending himself against a victims’ lawsuit and subpoenas from investigating agencies including the National Transportation Safety Board, according to the notice of claim. Mayoral spokesman Edward Skyler said it was “beyond outrageous” that Gansas was asking taxpayers to pay his legal fees after he refused to co-operate.
Witnesses have told investigators that Gansas was not in the pilothouse, as he should have been under city rules, when the vessel crashed. His lawyers have contended that the rules are vague and have seldom been enforced. Survivors, along with the families of those who died, had until last Tuesday (13 January) to mail a legal notice to the city if they planned to sue. The city comptroller’s office said 175 people have filed notices, asking for more than $3 billion in damages. Many of them have named Gansas in their claims.
19 January 2004 – Rocknes (Antigua & Barbuda)
Bulk Rocknes (17,765 gt, built 2001), underway from Bergen for Germany, with stone, capsized and sunk in Vatlestraumen (in approximately lat 60 20N, long 05 12E) at 16.30, local time, today. At least 25 people are observed in the water and a big rescue-operation is underway.
19 January 2004 – Understand that bulk Rocknes is upside down, but remains afloat. Rescue operations ongoing.
There were 30 persons on board bulk Rocknes. Two people have been found dead. A total of 19 people have been picked up and are now at hospital in Bergen, leaving nine persons still on board. Approximately 50 per cent of the vessel is above the waterline and a rescue team is working in the area. There are 23 Phillipinos, three Dutch, two Norwegians and two British members of the crew. Unknown why the vessel capsized.
20 January 2004 – At least two people died and 16 were missing after bulk Rocknes, Eikefet for Emden, cargo rock, capsized off the south-west coast of Norway, plunging crew members into the icy water. More than seven hours after the ship flipped over at about 15.15, UTC, three survivors were pulled from its hull where they had been trapped, bringing the number of rescued crew members to 12. After hours of searching in vain, expectations of finding any more crew members alive had begun to wane, but when the three crew members were pulled out of the hull shortly before midnight, hopes rose that other missing crew members could survive the ordeal as well. “We hope to find some more”, Trygve Hillestad, head of the local police, said. In all, 30 people had been on the ship when it capsized. With the water temperature in the area hovering just around five degrees Celsius, the rescue workers on site were racing to locate survivors while there was still time. While the average person’s chances of surviving longer than two hours if immersed in water at these temperatures are slim, many of the missing crew members were thought to be trapped inside the hull of the ship, where they could have a better chance of survival. Rescue workers spent most of yesterday evening drilling a hole in the hull of the ship, which they had dragged to shallower water, to save the crew members they had heard shouting and banging inside. “We have to take a lot of precautions because the keel is very slippery. That’s why the rescue operations are progressing so slowly”, a spokeswoman for the Sola rescue centre in Sola in south-western Norway, Cecilie Wathne, said.
According to Norwegian television reports, two of the three people rescued from the hull had been injured. The ship’s crew was mainly made up of Filipinos, but also included three Dutchmen, two Norwegians and a German, according to Norwegian ship operator Jebsen Management. Several boats were sent to the scene of the accident, which occurred off the coast of Bjoroy in the Raune fjord, to rescue survivors. Four helicopters were also dispatched, as well as 15 to 20 ambulances. The ship was built in 2001, and had been used since 2003 to dump rocks offshore to secure underwater oil pipelines by weighing them down. Henry Bakke, an eyewitness quoted by Norwegian newswire NTB, said it took only two or three minutes for the vessel to flip over. No reason was given why Rocknes keeled over. A large oil spill was spreading around the wreck, eyewitnesses said.
20 January 2004 – Three Filipino crew members have been pulled alive from the hull of bulk Rocknes that capsized in a fjord near the Norwegian port of Bergen. Hours after the accident, rescuers were able to free the trapped sailors by drilling through the hull of the Norwegian-owned vessel. Eleven other crew members were rescued earlier, but two have since died. The ship’s captain is among 16 crew members still missing, possibly trapped inside the overturned vessel. Witnesses said the ship capsized in a matter of minutes. It is now lying upturned in icy waters, though rescue workers were able to drag the vessel to shallower waters. Rescuers were able to locate the three crew members, who were in an air pocket, after hearing cries and banging from inside the vessel. They managed to communicate using Morse code and then cut a hole to get them out. The Filipinos were then taken to a decompression chamber at a nearby navy headquarters. The rescue of the three Filipinos raised hopes that more crew members would be found alive.
“We hope to find some more”, said Trygve Hillestad, head of the local police. Of the 30 crew members, most were Filipino. Anders Bang-Andersen, of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre for southern Norway, said because the accident happened close to land, local boats were able to join in the rescue. The 166-metre (550 feet) long vessel sent out a distress call before it capsized about 200 metres from the western island of Bjoroey at about 16.30, local time, yesterday. Rocknes had been loaded with heavy rocks bound for Emden in northern Germany, after loading in the Norwegian port of Eikefet. Boats were sent to the scene of the accident in the Raune fjord. The vessel is three-years-old and was found to be safe by Norwegian maritime authorities last summer. There has been no word on the cause of the accident.
20 January 2004 –The owners and underwriters of bulk Rocknes have awarded LOF 2000 Scopic to SMIT Salvage BV, who will co-operate with their Norwegian partners to render salvage services to the capsized vessel.
20 January 2004 –Three Filipino seamen were rescued from the wreck of bulk Rocknes at 23.00, local time, yesterday. There is little chance that any of the 16 people still missing will be rescued. The vessel had just bunkered when the accident occurred, and there is therefore over 900 tonnes of oil on board the vessel.
Some pollution has already occurred in the area. According to the vessel’s owner, there were 30 persons on board, including a pilot. The pilot was rescued but the vessel’s Norwegian master is missing.
20 January 2004 –After being called in to assist yesterday, SMIT Salvage BV is currently making initial preparations to stabilise bulk Rocknes in Norway. Once stabilised in its present upside-down state, the vessel can be towed to a sheltered area, where further salvage of the vessel will commence.
20 January 2004 –Bulk Rocknes: Oil spillage is reported from the vessel. Currently, 15 crew members remain missing, 12 have been rescued and three crew members are dead.
Rescue workers in Norway have called off the hunt for survivors of bulk Rocknes, which capsized, yesterday, in a fjord near Bergen, with 15 people still missing. Three crew members were found dead. An investigation is aiming to find out what caused the vessel to overturn in calm weather. Twelve of the vessel’s crew members were saved, including three found when rescuers cut a hole through its hull. The vessel has been towed to shallower water. There have been no further signs of life from inside the overturned vessel. Rescue leader Trygve Sveen said the rescue has been called off. There is no hope of finding survivors in the water. He said it was doubtful that any survivors would now be found inside the vessel. Most of the crew were Filipinos, but reports said three were Dutchmen, two Norwegians and one a German. The vessel sent out a distress call before it capsized, about 200 metres from the western island of Bjoroey at about 16.30, local time, 19 January. Witnesses, from their own homes overlooking the fjord, said it took only seconds for the vessel to capsize. One side of Rocknes appeared to have been torn open and investigators will try to establish whether it hit the seabed before keeling over. Some crew members were thrown into the icy waters, but were saved because the accident happened close to land and local boats were able to join in the rescue. Experts had previously put survival times in the dock’s icy waters at about three hours.
21 January 2004 –Norwegian authorities are poised to launch an inquiry to find out why bulk Rocknes capsized on Monday (19 January) in shallow water off Bergen. Salvors SMIT Salvage BV is also waiting for the ship to be moved to a nearby port before its diving team can enter the upturned hull. Mystery surrounds the reason why the ship capsized only a year after it was converted into a state-of-the-art subsea stone and gravel discharge bulker for the undersea pipelines connecting oil platforms. It was converted with Dutch contractor Van Oord at the Keppel Verolme facility in Rotterdam. Norwegian shipowner and operator Jebsen ran the vessel in partnership with German KG company Hartmann, which bareboat chartered the vessel to the Bergen-based company. Plans are now under way to pump air into the hull to stabilise the wreck. SMIT will also have to deal with 450 tons of bunker fuel, which is slowly leaking from the boomed vessel. A Rotterdam-based SMIT spokesman said work on the removal of bunker fuel could start within the next week. Strong currents have caused concerns among coastal authorities that the vessel’s marine fuel could damage local marine life and coastline. Witnesses told Norwegian news sources that they saw the vessel grounded before it capsized with a hole in its side. The Norwegian pilot, Vermund Halhjem, on the bridge when the accident occurred, has survived and could provide reasons for the incident. Inspection by Norwegian maritime authorities in Bergen last August following the vessel’s conversion found no safety deficiencies. Meanwhile, P&I club Gard said that it had set-up a family support centre in Manila, with a total of 24 of the crew from the Philippines.
21 January 2004 –The chairman of the Bergen ship owning firm that operates bulk Rocknes said neither he nor his colleagues can understand how it could have capsized. No cause was immediately confirmed, but survivors report the vessel hit ground before suddenly flipping over. “It’s gruesome that something like this can happen to such a modern ship”, Atle Jebsen of Jebsen Management AS in Bergen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He claimed the specially built vessel for the offshore industry was constructed to the highest standards. It also was a new vessel, built in 2001 and loaded with equipment that allowed it to specialize in hauling gravel and stone used to secure undersea pipelines from oil platforms. The vessel was loaded with stones and had just refuelled before heading from Bergen to Emden in Germany. Neither Jebsen nor the vessel’s insurer, Gard of Norway, has confirmed a cause for the accident. Several witnesses, however, said they spotted holes in the vessel’s hull, leading to speculation that it ran into a rocky outcropping and took on water shortly before it capsized. Survivors also have said the vessel hit either ground or rocks before the accident. Others have said they heard stones crashing just before the vessel flipped, suggesting its cargo shifted and left the vessel out of balance. Both the vessel’s Norwegian captain, Jan Aksel Juvik, and the pilot, Vermund Halhjem, were on the bridge when the vessel allegedly grounded, reports the online edition of newspaper Bergens Tidende. The pilot survived but the captain remains missing. Coast guard workers were trying feverishly yesterday to contain the oil and diesel fuel on board the vessel, in hopes of preventing a major spill.
21 January 2004 –While the cause of the tragedy is being debated, bulk Rocknes has been moored close to the shore afloat with its bottom up. SMIT Salvage have been given the task of salving the vessel, a job which so far includes stabilizing the vessel for removal of fuel oil, as well as to begin the search for bodies in the superstructure. After a third body was recovered yesterday and 12 have been saved, the death roll stands at 15. This number includes the Norwegian master and Filipino seamen. Tomorrow divers will enter the superstructure to start the search for bodies. The search for bodies along the shoreline will continue within a wider area; the one yesterday was found six kilometres from the place of the accident. Meanwhile, the Jebsen group, as owners of the vessel, has informed the families in the Philippines and is offering every family a free trip to Norway to meet the survivors and see the scene of the accident. The vessel started to leak fuel oil immediately after the capsizing, but oil booms were not placed until the last survivors had been recovered. Now three kilometres of oil booms are in place and 200 people are working to contain and recover the oil spill. Due to the tidal currents the spill has spread somewhat. Rocknes had loaded fuel oil just before the accident and carried a total of 445 tons of heavy fuel oil, 67 tons of marine diesel and 21 tons of lubricating oil at the time of its loss. The wreck will eventually be taken to the dry dock at Hanytank for righting.
21 January 2004 –Salvage teams intend to pump more oil out of the capsized bulk Rocknes before towing the vessel to dock at Hanoeytangen. In the meantime rescue workers continue to look for victims with boats and underwater cameras, while police wanted to wait before sending in divers. The wreck of Rocknes was floating higher in the water after having air pumped into its ballast tanks and was probably more stable now since its cargo room, filled with 23,000 tons of stone, is formed like an inverted pyramid. “We have decided to continue with stabilization of the vessel before beginning to tow”, said information chief Ove Arvesen for the coastal administration Kystverket. After the human tragedy of the vessel’s sinking, environmental concerns have arisen, with escaping oil damaging sea birds and threatening an ecological nightmare. The seven seamen who were released from Haukeland University Hospital were being questioned by police investigators today. A central theory to explain the sudden and shocking capsizing of the bulker is that it struck ground and lost stability after damage to its hull. Several of those who piloted Rocknes had expressed concerns about how difficult it was to manoeuvre the vessel, but the vessel’s classification company Germanicher Lloyd insisted that the vessel’s construction met all rules and regulations. The Jebsen shipyard also said that no deficiencies had ever come to light in the inspections made of the vessel.
22 January 2004 –Instruments at the Geophysical Institute reveal three powerful measurements in the area where bulk Rocknes capsized, just before the vessel overturned. Experts can see no other explanation for the readings other than the vessel striking bottom, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports. “The readings are consistent with the vessel scraping along the mountain edge first. Afterwards, we have the first, powerful impacts”, Institute professor Jens Havskov said. The readings at four measuring stations in the area show a minor impact followed by a larger one. Finally, a powerful blow is registered, and two minutes later the first emergency messages came from Rocknes. Havskov said that the Institute’s measurements have no other likely explanation, the only alternative being a series of powerful explosions in a 50-second time-span within a kilometre of the capsizing. Newspaper VG reported that maps dated before 2003 do not indicate a newly discovered shallow only nine metres deep in the narrow sound. Rocknes extended ten meters beneath the water surface.
22 January 2004 –New information has come to light as to the cause of the loss of bulk Rocknes. Seismic recordings by the University of Bergen revealed three rather severe contacts and one lighter over 50 seconds from 16.32.20 hrs. The first distress message was recorded by Bergen Radio at 16.34.12 hrs, and the vessel had capsized by 16.36 hrs. This gives a total time of three minutes 40 seconds from the first impact until the vessel was lying bottom up. The damage to the hull reveals a rift of some 12 metres, bearing proof of the vessel coming too close to the Revskolten rock. When the area was re-hydrographed a few years ago, a protruding rock was detected at nine metres depth some 55 metres off the rock. In a loaded condition Rocknes would draw 10.14 metres, and the accident happened an hour after ebb tide. Highest priority is now given to recovering bodies from the wreck, and trained divers from the Bergen fire department are ready to enter the superstructure as soon as the vessel has been sufficiently stabilized. Whether this will take place today or tomorrow is still open. Second priority is given to the oil spill, which has spread northwards. Some 300 tons of oil is estimated to heave leaked from the wreck, with approximately 135-180 tons left onboard. Some 70 cubic metres of oil has been recovered from the surface. SMIT Salvage has been given the salvage contract and plans to bring the vessel to Hanytangen or the CCB Base for righting. The statutory inquiry will be held Monday or Tuesday next week.
23 January 2004 –Searchers found the body of a fourth crewman from bulk Rocknes that capsized this week, killing up to 18 crew members. Experts speculated that the accident may have been caused by the ship running aground. Rocknes, with 30 mainly Filipino crew members aboard, suddenly capsized in a narrow inlet less than 200 metres from land in western Norway on Monday (19 January). A body was found by a miniature submarine under 50 metres of water near the ship on Thursday, district police spokesman Trygve Hillestad said. That brought the confirmed death toll to four, with 14 missing and presumed dead, and 12 rescued. “The search is continuing on the surface and under the water”, Hillestad said by telephone. The vessel lies overturned near the shore and is being kept afloat by air pumped into its hull. Damage can be seen on the hull, and Norwegian media said Thursday that divers found signs of a recent impact from a ship on a shoal along Rocknes’ route. On Thursday, the Norwegian geological institute said its seismic monitors registered three impacts on the ship’s route about three minutes before the capsizing. It said the impacts were probably from Rocknes running aground. Shortly after the accident, experts suggested that the ship, which was loaded with stone, could have hit rocks, tearing open its ballast tanks and causing it to lose stability. Tor Christian Sletner, preparedness director for the state Coastal Service, said crews are still trying to stabilize the wreck and hope to tow it to a new location so divers can enter in search of bodies believed to remain inside. “We estimate a few days, not weeks, before we can move it”, he said. Sletner said salvagers have control of fuel leaking from the vessel, which had 445 tons of heavy oil, 67 tons of diesel and 21 tons of lubricating oil on board when it capsized. Crews have collected about 160 tons of oil but officials will cut back slightly on deployment of these workers and their vessels Thursday afternoon, Sletner said. “The critical phase will be when the ship is moved”.
26 January 2004 –The Norwegian pilot charged with leading bulk Rocknes safely out to sea ended up saving his own life only by fleeing the ship’s bridge as the crippled vessel fatally flipped over. Vermund Halhjelm was among the first to testify at a maritime inquiry today into why Rocknes capsized in the late afternoon of 19 January. As earlier reported, it appears the vessel’s load of gravel shifted and then the vessel contacted some rocks while sailing out of Bergen. The ship flipped over in a matter of minutes, claiming 18 lives. Eleven crew members and the pilot survived. He told of a “relaxed and good atmosphere” on the bridge, even though he earlier had testified that a German captain also on board was “nervous” that part of the vessel’s gravel load had shifted after a turn that morning. Rocknes’ Norwegian captain wasn’t worried. The pilot claimed he kept the vessel “at absolutely a satisfactory distance from land”. The local judge in charge of the inquiry asked what the distance was, but the pilot said he had no comment. Then the drama started. “When we had Revskolten light ahead, we felt two small shudders in the ship”, Halhjem said. “The captain said, ‘I think we hit something below’. Afterwards came two stronger shakes”. Suddenly, they lost control of the ship. “I ordered hard to the right, which is 35 degrees on this ship”, testified Halhjem, adding that he remembers the ship already tilting to the right. “At the same time, the captain sent out a mayday and sounded general alarms on the ship”, Halhjem said. “After I said hard to the right, the ship just kept tilting over to the right. In a desperate effort, I ordered hard left. I heard the captain order that all watertight doors be locked. “I remember that I thought that if I was going to survive this, I had to get out of the bridge”, Halhjem said. Someone outside opened the door into the bridge from the outside. “He saved my life. If he hadn’t opened that door, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. The tilt was so great that I even had problems walking in the wheelhouse”. Halhjem said he escaped through the door to the bridge wing on the port side. He gripped the railing on the side. As the vessel capsized, he managed to clamber up the side and onto the hull. He was eventually plucked up by a rescue helicopter about 20 minutes later. Both captains are among those missing and presumed dead. Testimony was due to continue on Tuesday (27 January). The maritime inquiry was scheduled to last through Wednesday.
27 January 2004 –The ship’s pilot who escaped from capsizing bulk Rocknes last week finds no pleasure in his survival. He refused, however, to address some key points at a maritime inquiry into the tragedy. Ship’s pilot Vermund Halhjem testified for the second day today. Halhjem refused, though, to pinpoint on a sea chart the route that he thought Rocknes followed during its fateful trip out to sea. Earlier he had refused to say how far from land he thought the vessel was when it got in trouble. Norway’s National Coastal Administration (Kystverket) has now erected warning markers at the site where the vessel grounded just before it capsized. The site is just north of the Revskolten light, not far from Bergen. Paint from Rocknes’ hull has been found on three newly discovered patches of rock and ground at the site. The patches extended up to 10.3 metres from the seabed. “If I’d known they were there, we never would have grounded”, Halhjem testified. He claims he had never been informed of their presence and they weren’t noted on the charts he used while trying to pilot the bulker, which was heavily loaded with gravel and fuel, out to sea. The vessel also touched bottom on a voyage just prior to its last one, but officials testified today that it caused no major damage. The incident occurred south of Broeynnoeysund in northern Norway on 19 December. The damage was determined to be minor, however, after being inspected by both the vessel’s managers and its classification society, Germanischer Lloyd. Andor Antonsen, master pilot for the area where the incident occurred, said no holes were pierced in the vessel’s hull. “It was just a small dent, about a metre behind the so-called bulb in the bow”, Antonsen said. Divers were sent down to inspect the damage and no repairs were deemed necessary.
28 January 2004 –Bulk Rocknes, which capsized 19 January near Bergen, had touched bottom on its previous voyage, according to testimony on the second day of a maritime inquiry held in Bergen. The damage from the vessel’s grounding, on 19 December, in waters off northern Norway, was determined to be minor by the ship’s classification society, Germanischer Lloyd. The pilot on Rocknes when it capsized, refused, yesterday, to indicate the vessel’s exact position or to say how far it was from land when it began to tilt. He had previously testified at the inquiry that the master of Rocknes, Jan Aksel Juvik, had told him the vessel was sailing with a divided cargo of stones in one of the holds. After the stones apparently shifted to starboard, Halhjem quoted Juvik as saying, “This isn’t unusual”. A German captain, sailing on board as part of a training program, disagreed as to what effect the cargo shift might have. Halhjem said the two captains discussed the situation and that the German master “appeared nervous” about the vessel’s stability. “It is completely ordinary for a ship to tilt after a turn”, pilot Halhjem told the inquiry. “What was noteworthy was that it didn’t right itself properly when we set a new course”. At the point “we had the Revskolten light ahead, we felt two small shudders in the ship”, Halhjem testified. “The captain said, ‘I think we hit something below’. “Afterwards came two stronger shakes”, the pilot said. “I ordered ‘hard to the right’, which is 35 degrees on this ship, but the ship just kept tilting over. I heard the captain order that all watertight doors be closed”, the pilot said. “I thought that if I was going to survive, I had to get out of the bridge”, Halhjem said. “The tilt was so great I had problems walking in the wheelhouse”. The pilot testified he escaped through the door to the bridge wing on the port side of Rocknes. He gripped a railing as the ship turned over, and then clambered onto the vessel’s up-ended keel. A helicopter rescued him about 20 minutes later. Both captains are missing and presumed dead.
28 January 2004 –Continuing evidence at a maritime inquiry into last week’s capsizing of bulk Rocknes indicated that a lopsided cargo can have played a critical role in the vessel’s sinking. A loading belt failed to spread the cargo evenly, creating a space on the starboard side that filled quickly with gravel when the vessel struck bottom and may have accelerated the turn over. A Dutch deck machinist testified at the hearing today that he was in the control room on Monday (19 January) and saw that a computer screen was displaying a blinking red message with the word “critical”.
Earlier in the inquiry captain Olav Tangedal, who was on leave when the accident occurred, explained that Rocknes had a load calculator on the computer that would issue a warning in a red window if limits were exceeded. Both Tangedal and the machinist testified that the vessel’s cargo was not distributed evenly in the hold. The testimony of the ship’s pilot and confusion about the reliability of different sea charts mapping the sea bed also figured prominently at the hearing. The nautical chart administration’s director, Frode Klepsvik, said that the only secure method of navigation was to use the official Electronic Navigation Chart and the authorized paper map. The pilot on Rocknes, Vermund Halhjem, testified that earlier use of an electronic chart showed the vessel on land when it was safely at sea. Norway’s Losforbund, the union for ship pilots, has accused the state’s chart administration of gross negligence for not notifying members of new measurements in Vatlestraumen, where it struck ground. Rocknes was also rebuilt in 2002, which may have resulted in its centre of gravity becoming higher. A witness from classification company Germanischer Lloyd is expected to testify about the ship’s construction.
28 January 2004 –The bulk Rocknes towing operation, described as the most complicated ever in the Bergen area, was completed successfully and the wreck is now moored in the Coast Centre Base in Agotnes on the island of Sotra. The base has a deep-water quay with a depth of 40-50 metres alongside. The wreck was towed upside down and the draught was approximately 25 metres. The about seven nautical mile long towage took about 5.5 hours.
Fourteen vessels were engaged in the operation. Divers will now try to enter the wreck. Thereafter, the trials to erect the vessel will commence. When the salvage operation is finished, the authorities expects to find further leads on the cause of the accident. During the second day of the inquiry, the pilot was once again questioned, this time for two hours. During the inquiry it was also revealed that the loading equipment at the terminal where Rocknes loaded 23,423 tons of gravel where a bit too short for a vessel of Rocknes size. The cargo was therefore unevenly distributed in the cargo hold and it was normal practise to compensate a starboard list by filling the port side ballast tanks.