Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



(2004), "Marine", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited



2 February 2004 – Rocknes (Antigua and Barbuda)Divers inspected the wreck of bulk Rocknes, which capsized in a Norwegian fjord two weeks ago, in a bid to locate the bodies of 13 sailors presumed to have been trapped inside, police said. “Two divers drilled through the hull and entered at the cafeteria level this afternoon. They didn’t find anything. Two other divers have taken over,” Trygve Hillestad, police spokesman in the Western Norwegian town of Bergen, said. Two divers at a time worked today in 80-minute shifts at depths of about 12 metres on piercing the hull of the still overturned vessel. A new team was set to work late into the afternoon, despite the onset of darkness, and the operation was expected to continue tomorrow, Hillestad said.

3 February 2004 – Divers probing the wreckage of bulk Rocknes found two bodies inside the overturned vessel today. They are trying to recover all 13 crew members who remain missing after the bulker capsized on January 19. The divers first entered the vessel on Monday but failed to locate any victims as they made their way through its accommodation structure. At about 14.40 today, they found two bodies on the vessel’s C deck.

Both were brought to the surface and taken to the Gades Institute in Bergen for positive identification. The divers’ search is expected to take several days. Five teams of divers with two in each team are taking turns to search through the Rocknes. This morning they went through most of the vessel’s A and B decks, without finding any bodies. The C deck lies right under the bridge, where the pilot, the master, the third mate and some others were standing when the vessel suddenly capsized.

5 February 2004 – Divers have located the bodies of a further two seafarers locked inside the wreck of bulk Rocknes, which capsized a fortnight ago in a freezing fjord off Bergen. Local fire rescue divers discovered the bodies mid-afternoon on the second day of their investigation of the interior of the Jebsen-owned vessel, now towed to shelter. The two bodies were found on the C deck of the vessel as the divers searched the vessel’s accommodation area, and taken to the Gades Institute in Bergen for identification. The discovery leaves the bodies of 11 seamen still missing and five bodies retrieved, with the divers expected to carry on their search for the dead over the next few days. Divers face tough conditions in murky water, and had to cut a hole underwater in the vessel’s hull on Monday (February 2) to gain access. Ten divers organised into five team pairs are scouring the inside of the specially converted offshore vessel, which overturned at dusk on January 19. Around 30 people are now involved in the salvage operation, including a five man team from Dutch salvor Smit International. The Bergen court inquiry last week to establish the facts that led to the tragedy lasted six days and closed on Saturday. The inquiry heard evidence that the vessel grounded before it upturned and its gravel cargo was not evenly loaded. Doubts were also raised in court over the reliability of sea charts that mapped the seabed where the vessel is believed to have run aground.

5 February 2004 – Divers found yet another body yesterday in the superstructure of bulk Rocknes. This is the third recovered body since the diving began. Ten crew members are still missing.

9 February 2004 – Divers will today continue the search for the five seamen still missing after bulk Rocknes capsized three weeks ago. Eight of the 13 found so far have now been identified. The last to be identified is the Norwegian master, Jan Aksel Juvik. He was one of the four who were found last Thursday. In addition, one German and six from the Phillipines have been identified.

10 February 2004 – Yesterday, divers found another three of the missing seamen onboard the wreck of bulk Rocknes. The bodies were brought to the Gades Institute in Bergen for identification. The search for the last two missing crew members continues today.

11 February 2004 – The search onboard the capsized bulk Rocknes for the last two missing seamen has been terminated for the time being. The owners now plan to right the ship, and the police will then resume the search.

12 February 2004 – The diving operation in the hull of bulk Rocknes has been terminated. The bodies of two seafarers are still missing. The vessel will now be righted. According to the ship manager, the vessel is sufficiently intact to be repaired and put into service again.

19 February 2004 – It will cost an estimated NOK 20 million to complete the clean-up of the oil spill from bulk Rocknes which capsized near Bergen on January 19. So far, only five of the 35 kilometres of shoreline has been covered. “Up until today we have spent around NOK 10 million, and we’ll need another 10 million for sure, before we are finished,” says head of operations, Tom Hansen. It is also a time-consuming job for the 90 persons who so far have gathered 110 tons of oil sludge. “We hope to be finished with the roughest part by Easter, and then continue the touching up after that,” says Hansen. The aim is to have all beaches completely cleaned by summer.

24 February 2004 – Salvors are planning to right bulk Rocknes, which capsized last month, killing 18 people, the vessel’s operator said yesterday. Righting the vessel, which remains belly-up, is expected to take about two weeks and cost $10m. Rocknes would be the largest vessel ever turned back onto its hull in Norwegian waters, said Georg Eide, whose salvage company, part of Eide Group, will assist in the operation. “The work is demanding and will require a lot of rigging,” Mr Eide said. Mr Eide and the SMIT International salvage group plan to use 12 heavy cables and seven lifting blocks to turn the vessel over. Work is set to begin on March 17. About 50 people, three main ships and a host of smaller vessels will be part of the operation.

1 February 2004 – Congo River, Democratic Republic of CongoAbout 200 people are missing after a vessel caught fire and sank on a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a spokesman for the UN mission in the central African country said today. Spokesman Alexandre Essome quoted the owner of the ferry as saying he had “no news” of 200 of its passengers, while 301 others had been rescued after Monday’s (January 26) incident on the Congo River. The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said that all the passengers’ possessions on the vessel had burned in the disaster, which was caused by a fire in one of the ferry’s engines. Three patrol boats and a helicopter worked on Friday and Saturday to help survivors and take them to the regional centre of Mbandaka. The UN mission sent 2,000 bottles of mineral water, while aid organisations despatched blankets and medicines. The stricken ferry was a long and light craft of the type frequently used to transport passengers in the region.

7 February 2004 – Dury (Panama)It was reported that at about 01.00 hours on February 7, while general cargo Dury (5,552 gt, built 1990) was on a loaded passage with some 6,040 tons of steel products from Vladivostok to Incheon, the vessel completely sank, together with its crew members and cargo some 14 miles south-east of Wangdeung-do island, off Kunsan, Korea. The cause of sinking is at present unknown, but heavy weather with strong winds were reported at the time. Two out of a total of 18 crew members were found dead and the remaining crew members are still missing. Four marine police boats are attending the site to search for the missing crew.

8 February 2004 – Maritime police said yesterday the bodies of 10 Vietnamese crew members who were on board general cargo Dury that sank on February 7 in the Yellow Sea have been recovered near Buan, North Jeolla province. The vessel apparently foundered in rough seas, police said. Eight crew members, all Vietnamese, remain missing. The vessel had left Vladivostok, Russia, on February 3 on its way to Incheon, carrying 6,040 tons of steel. According to the maritime police, the load was heavier than its capacity. Rescue services sent ten patrol boats and a helicopter to the area to support the search but efforts were hampered by strong tide and high winds. Police expressed doubt any crew members could have survived. Help from the Vietnamese Embassy is being sought to identify the crew members.

10 February 2004 – General cargo Dury remains sunk at the site, in some 53 metres of water and it appears that the vessel may be left at the site without salvage operation. Eight further crew members have been found dead at the site and eight are still missing despite various searches by the marine police. No oil leak is reported so far.

11 February 2004 – Waal Trader (The Netherlands)One person died and nine were missing last night due to a collision between a Dutch container ship (c.c. Waal Trader, 8,500 gt, built 2003) and a small Chinese cargo vessel (Zhe Sheng) in the water area around the Yangtze River mouth. All 11 crew members of the Chinese vessel were thrown into the water as the Chinese cargo vessel was knocked over and sank in the area between Changxing Island and the Yangshan mountains. Rescue efforts were made at once by the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration in an area of ten sea miles around the accident spot. By this morning, one crewman had been rescued alive and one body had been found in the sunken vessel. The chances of survival for the missing nine might be slight as, according to those rescued, the accident occurred when all the crewmen were having their meal in the cabin, said a rescue official. The search for the missing nine in a larger area and the investigation of the cause of the accident are still underway. The sea route is not much affected by the accident.

12 February 2004 – Five more Chinese sailors have been found dead and four remain missing after a collision between a Dutch container vessel (c.c. Waal Trader) and a small Chinese cargo vessel (Zhe Sheng) near Shanghai, a maritime official said. It brings the confirmed toll from the accident at the mouth of Yangtze River to six. Of the 11 Chinese crew, only one has been rescued. “Five more bodies in the cabin of the boat were found at 22.00, yesterday,” Zhou Zhengbao, an official from the Shanghai Maritime and Safety bureau official, said. “There is still no news about the four other missing sailors,” he said. “Our boats are still searching and we’ve increased the range of the operation,” said Zhou, who maintained the sailors’ chances of survival were slim. “The area of water where the accident took place is very big, so I believe there is little chance that they are still alive.”

13 February 2004 – Four people are still missing from the cargo vessel (Zhe Sheng) that sank in Tuesday’s (February 10) collision in the Yangtze River mouth in East China. The sunken vessel was dragged out of the water yesterday. Rescue workers have extended their search range to 25 sea miles around the accident spot. The Chinese vessel collided on Tuesday night with a Dutch container vessel (c.c. Waal Trader) and sank, throwing all its 11 crew members into the water. The accident occurred when the crewmen were having their meal in the cabin, said a rescue official. One crewman was rescued alive later. The container vessel is now anchored at nearby Wusong Anchorage Ground for further investigation.

13 February 2004 – Hera (Cambodia)Turkish rescue workers searched today for 20 people who went missing after their ship sank in the Black Sea during a severe winter storm. The Cambodian-flagged cargo ship sank some 7.5 miles from Istanbul’s Bosporus strait around 12.30 hours (10.30 UTC) today, maritime officials said. They said the name or destination of the vessel, which was carrying a cargo of coal, were not immediately clear. “We have sent out two boats. We know there were 21 crew but we have only spotted one member so far,” an official told Reuters. He said the crew was made up of two Ukrainians and 19 Bulgarians. A blizzard lashed Istanbul and much of Western Turkey today, disrupting air, land and sea traffic. The Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, key shipping channels for Black Sea states, remained closed for a second day today.

13 February 2004 – Blizzards have cut off thousands of Turkish villages, blocked roads and kept air and sea routes closed, while rescue workers battle high seas in the search for 20 men lost when their ship sank off Istanbul. Neighbouring Greece and Bulgaria were also battered by storms that disrupted air, sea and road transport. Athens ground to a halt amid one of its worst snowstorms in decades. Maritime officials said rescue workers were searching for 20 people missing after their Cambodian-flagged general cargo Hera, loaded with coal, sank in the Black Sea 7.5 miles from the Bosporus strait around midday. “We have sent out two boats. We know there were 21 crew, but we have only spotted one member so far,” an official said. The crew numbered two Ukrainians and 19 Bulgarians. Istanbul’s Bosporus and the Dardanelles straits remained closed after a decision to shut them yesterday as visibility dropped to near zero. A total of 42 tankers were awaiting transit at the entrances to the two straits.

14 February 2004 – Twenty crew members from general cargo Hera are still missing. General cargo Strontsiy is still aground. General cargo Lujin-I is also still aground with its 16-person crew still on board. No members of the crew on board general cargo Hera, which sank near Istanbul’s Bosporus strait yesterday, have been found yet, it emerged this morning, as none of the reports about survivors was confirmed. Seventeen Bulgarian nationals sailed on board Hera, which sank some 7.5 miles from Istanbul’s Bosporus strait at around 12.50 yesterday. The 21-crew vessel, which was carrying a cargo of coal, also included Ukrainians. Some sources say the crew included 20 members. Turkish rescue teams resumed their work today despite the strong, cold wind and high waves, which make the operation extremely difficult. Still, Turkish authorities announced that improved visibility facilitates the operation today. Captain Peycho Manolov, chief of Bulgaria’s Naval Administration, announced that most of the members of the crew were born in or after 1980. It was not immediately clear what caused the disaster. The ship was heading from Kerch to Trabzon, the President of Turkish company ATAMAR Seamanship, Hera’s agent, told the Bulgarian authorities. According to Foreign Ministry information, Hera was among the last to find an anchorage off the shore. The signal with it was lost as it headed for the Bosporus, where it was offered shelter.

15 February 2004 – Only a life belt and a leaky raft have been found so far at the scene of Friday’s tragedy with general cargo Hera, Bulgaria’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lyubomir Todorov announced last night. According to local Darik radio, the leakage in the ship occurred due to long-postponed repair of the vessel. Hera’s owners, Maestro Shipping, had cancelled such works a couple of times because of the cost of reconstruction. Some 200 rescuers have been combing an area of about 60 square sea miles near the Bosporus strait, where the ship sank, as well as the shore since the accident occurred on Friday, but to no avail. The Bulgarian ship Vezhen, thought to be the first and closest witness of the tragedy, is also helping Turkish rescuers.

16 February 2004 – Turkish officials have launched a final search for survivors from a ship which sank in a severe storm three days ago. More than 300 rescuers are combing the waters of the Black Sea and its shore for 18 Bulgarian and two Ukrainian crew aboard the Cambodian-registered general cargo Hera. Authorities are also planning to send divers to the wreck of the sunken ship. “They could be trapped in the hull, though it would be difficult to survive the freezing temperatures” a rescue official said. The coal-laden vessel was fighting waves as high as six metres in a snowstorm when it disappeared from radars in the Black Sea, just a few miles from the entrance to the Bosporus Straits. A spokesman for the sea rescue service, Recep Canpolat, said the crew did not have time to send an SOS signal. “This is why we think they were capsized suddenly by a large wave,” he said. “There is a small possibility some are trapped in an air pocket in the ship’s hull. We are trying to stay hopeful – although we have to admit chances of survivors having enough oxygen and surviving temperatures of −15°C are small.” The ship’s Bulgarian owner, whose son and father-in-law were on board, is also planning to send down a team of divers. Only a broken raft and safety belts have been found by rescuers so far.

17 February 2004 – A Bulgarian group that will assist the Turkish authorities in the rescue and investigation operations into the tragedy with the Cambodian-flagged general cargo Hera is to leave for Turkey today. Also today, it was announced that the investigation would begin once the rescue works are over. The vessel sank on February 13 some 7.5 miles from Istanbul’s Bosporus strait at around 12.50 hours with seventeen Bulgarian and three Ukrainian sailors on board. So far neither bodies nor any wrecks have been found. Only a lifebelt and a leaky raft were discovered at the scene of Friday’s tragedy. Hera did not send an SOS signal, captain Pencho Manolov, Sea Administration executive director said. The Bulgarian vessel Vezhen sent the signal for the sinking of the Cambodian-flagged cargo vessel. The captain of the Bulgarian vessel said that Hera sank in two or three minutes, something that is very uncommon. Manolov commented that for some reason Hera’s captain was not able to call for help. In Manolov’s words, Hera was waiting for permission to cross the Bosporus, but the Turkish authorities declined to give it because of the bad weather conditions. Right after that Hera’s captain decided to make a manoeuvre and the vessel sank. According to the international regulations, the investigation into the accident has to be executed by Cambodia and Turkey, where the vessel sank. Despite this, Bulgaria’s authorities have decided to send experts who will take part in the investigation. Official information says that Hera’s real owner is Maestro Shipping Gickstaun, but Bulgaria’s Transport Minister is doubtful about this. The hiring procedure of sailors is still to be investigated as there are no employee contracts in the documents of the operating company. Media reports remain controversial as to whether Turkish coastline security has put an end to rescue operations, which were in progress during the whole weekend despite the strong, cold winds and high waves. Local Darik radio reported that coastline security has resumed search operations this morning with a helicopter and a 40-strong team of coastline security.

20 February 2004 – The operation of the Turkish divers to reach the sunken general cargo Hera and pull out the bodies of the sailors aboard was postponed today after it turned out that vessel’s owner has not signed a contract with a Turkish company to carry out the search. Talks with three Turkish companies specialising in underwater rescue operations had been held a day earlier. Seventeen Bulgarians and three Ukrainians were aboard the vessel, which sank on Febraury 13 near the Bosporus strait, some four hours after sending a cargo trouble message. Now the vessel is stranded 73.5 metres underwater, lying on its starboard side. No bodies have been washed ashore so far. Stefan Minchev, representative of the managing company Providence Shipping, spoke of poor weather conditions and visibility, as well as heavy snowfalls in the region of Istanbul. In his words, this is the reason for postponing the search operation by Turkish divers today. So far, six lifejackets, a rope, a bench and a rescue belt from the ill-fated vessel have been found. Rescuers are supposing that most of the crew were in the captain’s cabin at the time of the accident. It is still not clear what caused the sinking of the vessel. Bulgaria’s Transport, Minister Nikolay Vassilev, however, suggested that a leak in the front hold lid might have tipped the vessel forward.

25 February 2004 – The search for crew and wreck of general cargo Hera, which sank on February 13 with 17 Bulgarian and three Ukrainian sailors on board will go on, Istanbul Coast Guard Director Baris Tozar said today. His comments came after media reported that the Hera search might be ended. Baris Tozar met with Bulgaria’s Parliamentary Speaker, Ognyan Gerdzhikov. He explained to the Bulgarian top official that the search will continue until at least one of the crew members is found. Bodies have not been found from the Hera shipwreck site as the salvage operation went into a 12th day today. Life vests and lifeboat fragments are the only remains taken so far from the sea and from the shore near the Bosporus. Tozar presented the results of the search so far and added that it would be easy to put an end to the operation, but that to do so would hurt the relatives of the sailors. A total of 170 Turkish rescuers are involved in the operation. The Istanbul Coast Guard Director explained that Turkish authorities will provide Sofia with copies of all records of the case as soon as the salvage operation is over. Also today, Captain Peycho Manolov, Sea Administration Executive director, who headed the Bulgarian team participating in the rescue operations in Istanbul, said that Hera will probably remain underwater, as the operation to re-float it is too risky.

20 February 2004 – Baybridge Express (Panama)Nine people are missing after a Chinese fishing boat collided with ro/ro Baybridge Express (6974 gt, built 1985) yesterday in the South China sea, media reports said today. The accident occurred some 70 nautical miles northwest of Basuo harbour, Hainan province, when the fishing boat Qiongyu 12254 collided with Baybridge Express, according to the Hainan Maritime Rescue Centre. Twelve crew members of the fishing boat fell into the water, and only three could be rescued by a nearby fishing boat, eyewitnesses said. Baybridge Express was stopped some 36 nautical miles south of Sanya city by the province’s maritime police, and forced to dock at Sanya harbour last night under police escort.

24 February 2004 – Scandinavian Star (Bahamas)A survivor of the 1990 fire on board ro/ro Scandinavian Star has lodged a report with Oslo police against the P&I club Skuld, claiming it should be charged with fraud over the way it handled compensation claims in the aftermath of the fire, which claimed 159 lives. Mike Axdal, of Korsor, Denmark, is already suing Assuranceforeningen Skuld (Gjensidig) for an unspecified amount of at least $10m, amid claims that Skuld withheld knowledge about the true ownership of the vessel to avoid having to pay US-size compensation. The vessel was hit by fire on 7 April 1990 in international waters. Mr Axdal claims Skuld went to great lengths to avoid US-level compensation claims, including concealing information that showed the vessel was owned by a US company and so liable to pay US compensation levels. There were ownership transactions around the time of the fire, which was started by arson.

24 February 2004 – Song Mao 8 (People’s Republic of China)London, February 24 – The following was received from Hong Kong MRCC, timed 01.20, UTC: Chem. tank Song Mao 8, flag China, length 54 metres, capsized and drifted in inverted condition in lat 22°37′N, long 115°28′E, at 17.00, UTC, February 23. One crewman was rescued by a passing vessel but the other 12 are missing.

A press report, dated today, states: As of 18.00 today, rescuers had not found the nine missing crew members nor the cargo ship (chem. tank Song Mao 8) that capsized yesterday off Guangdong Province, the Guangdong Maritime Bureau announced. “Their chance of survival is very slim and the cargo ship might have sunk,” said Wang Jihong, an official of the bureau, after five rescue vessels patrolled for a whole day around the waters where the cargo ship capsized. The only survivor, Zhang Tiancheng, chief mate of the ship, was out of danger but was still very weak, said doctors. The cargo ship, Shanghai for Kaiping City, Guangdong, carrying 900 tons of plastics, belonged to a shipping company based in Zhejiang Province. The ship was hit by strong winds which displaced its cargo. Around 17.00 yesterday, it lost balance and turned over. All ten people on board fell into the sea, said Zhang, who was picked up by a ship after spending ten hours adrift. The search for other crew members was continuing and further investigation is still underway, said Wang.

25 February 2004 – Chem. tank Song Mao 8, which was initially inverted but still afloat, was discovered by the search and rescue team to have sunk on their arrival on scene. The vessel is believed to have gone down at lat 22°37.6′N, long 115°34.2′E. There were ten persons on board, not as previously reported, of which one was rescued but nine remain missing.

26 February 2004 – The search for the nine missing crewmen from sunken chem. tank Song Mao 8 has been called off.

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