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1.1 24 April 2006 AL SALAM BOCCACCIO 98 (Panama)
A report submitted to Egyptian parliament has assigned blame for February’s Al Salam Boccaccio 98 (11779 gt, built 1970) ferry disaster, in which more than a thousand passengers died, to the ship’s owner and government transportation agencies. “The parliamentary findings showed up the situation at Egypt’s Red Sea ports,” said Hafez Abu Seada, secretary-general of the non-governmental Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR). “There are no real rules currently governing ports and ship maintenance,” he said in remarks published in an IRIN news service report. “There’s a lack of certification and examination of ships,” Abu Seada added, “especially the passenger ferries operating between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. According to IRIN, the new parliamentary report aimed its harshest criticisms at the owner of the doomed vessel, the Al Salam Maritime Transport Company, which it accused of gross negligence. “Testimony provided by passengers. Confirmed that [the ferry] regularly carried more than 2,000 people”, in spite of regulations limiting passenger numbers to 1,200, Hamdi El Tahhan, chairman of the parliamentary fact-finding committee on the disaster, was quoted as saying in the state press. The report went on to note that the ferry had been inadequately maintained and lacked basic emergency equipment. The report also said that the validity of the life jackets on board the vessel had expired five years earlier. Al Salam company owner Mamdouh Ismail, who enjoys a close relationship with the government through his position in the upper house of parliament, was also criticised for fleeing to London following news of the disaster. The report suggested that Ismail’s position on the board of the Red Sea Ports Authority allowed him to both sidestep safety regulations and unfairly monopolize the Red Sea shipping business. Government transport agencies were also blamed by the fact-finding commission for allowing the ferry to sail without meeting minimum safety standards, as well as for their slow response to the unfolding catastrophe. The report concluded by making an appeal “to reform and restructure the maritime transport sector”.
24 May 2006
Egypt’s top prosecutor said today that a Red Sea ferry disaster that killed more than 1,000 people was caused by the negligence of its four top officers, who also perished. Prosecutor-General Masher Abel Washed charged six others, including the ferry owner and his son, in connection with February’s sinking. Passenger ro/ro Al Salam Boccaccio 98 was carrying 1,400 passengers and crew when it capsized and sank after a fire broke out while en route to Egypt from Saudi Arabia. The captain and his three top officers “acted negligently and frivolously when the fire broke out and did not take appropriate measures to extinguish it,” Abdel Wahed said. The officers should have ordered the ferry back to the Saudi port of Dubah when the fire erupted, he said. Instead, it continued its course to the Red Sea port of Safaga, Egypt. They also failed to send a distress signal or radio for help, he added. The trial of the six will begin on June 5 in Safaga. The identities of the four other defendants weren’t immediately available. Mamdouh Ismail, the ferry owner, his son Amr, and a third defendant fled Egypt shortly after the disaster. Abdel Wahed said they would be tried in absentia, but his office has asked Interpol to arrest and return them to Egypt. Abdel Wahed accused the six of negligence, saying they failed to act swiftly when they first learned of the sinking, delaying rescue operations.
27 May 2006
The owner of a ferry which capsized in the Red Sea killing more than 1,000 people was being hunted by police in Britain last night. Mamdouh Ismail and his son Amr, an executive in the ferry company, fled to London from Egypt straight after the disaster. An international arrest warrant has been issued for them. They and four officers of passenger ro/ro Al Salam Boccaccio 98 face charges of corruption, criminal negligence and failure to take steps to help the passengers. The ferry sank in February on a journey between Daba, Saudi Arabia, and Safaga, Egypt. A fire broke out on the car deck after the ship left Daba. But instead of returning to port, the crew sailed further out and took no steps to evacuate the passengers. An Egyptian report into the disaster said the ferry had forged safety certificates. Life rafts and fire extinguishers were unfit for use, there were not enough winches to lower rafts into the sea and the ship was carrying 1,400 - more than 200 above capacity.
5 June 2006
An Egyptian court in the Red Sea port city of Safaga started today the trial of six suspects over the capsize of passenger ro/ro Al Salam Boccaccio 98 in February, which claimed the lives of some 1,033 passengers with 385 others injured, the official MENA news agency reported. Of the six defendants, three were present at the court today while the other three, including the owner of the ferry, Mamdouh Ismail, were still at large. Ismail, a former member of the Shura Council, Egypt’s parliamentary upper house, has fled the country after the tragedy. Egyptian Attorney General Maher Abdel Wahed has issued an international arrest warrant for Ismail and prepared for his extradition to Egypt, local media reported. The six defendants, including Ismail’s son, are facing charges of negligence, failure to take actions to save the passengers and failure to inform the authorities after knowing the accident.
6 June 2006
The owner of passenger ro/ro Al Salam Boccaccio 98 that sank in the Red Sea last winter, drowning more than 1 000 people, will pay millions in compensation to survivors and victims’ families, an Egyptian prosecutor said today. The owner, Mamdouh Ismail, fled the country with his son shortly before another prosecutor ordered the two, and four others, to face trial on charges of negligence and corruption. He is believed to be in Europe. Prosecutor Gaber Rayhan said a total of $57-million would be paid. He did not specify how Ismail had paid the compensation money to the government to hand on to victims, or if it was money the owner had received from insurance payouts. The family of each victim will get $52 000 and each survivor will get $8 700, the prosecutor said. In addition, people who lost cars will get $12 000 and truck owners $24 000. He said the money would be paid within days. Rayhan said he had ordered the lifting of a previous freeze on the assets of the ship owner and family members because the owner had paid the compensation money. Ismail and his son, Amr, and a third defendant are being tried in absentia in the trial that began yesterday in Egypt’s Red Sea port of Safaga. Three other defendants were in attendance as the trial began and was adjourned to July 3.
3 May 2006 ALEXANDROS T (St Vincent & Grenadines)
Understand bulk Alexandros T. (91164 gt, built 1989), South America for China, laden with iron ore, has had ingress of water into one or two cargo compartments and is now heading for Cape Town in order to conduct further inspections. Further understand the vessel is expected at Cape Town in about two days. As is normal practice in these matters, the SA Maritime Safety Authority will probably wish to conduct an inspection of the vessel while a considerable distance off-shore in order to evaluate whether it will be permitted closer to the coastline.
Bulk Alexandros T. was breaking up off the Eastern Cape coast on Wednesday night (May 3) and the crew had abandoned ship, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said. “It has been confirmed that all 33 crew on board the Alexandros T. have abandoned ship using life rafts, and bulk CSE Fortune Express is preparing to pick up the crew. Alexandros T reported to be sailing from Brazil to China, has broken up and is sinking. Sea conditions are 4-to-5-metre swells with 45 knot winds,” said Mark Hellenberg, a search and rescue coordinator at the NSRI. Late on Wednesday afternoon the Alexandros T. sent out a distress call, reporting that it was and taking in water “from unconfirmed reasons” over 300 nautical miles off Port Alfred on the Eastern Cape coast. The Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre and the National Ports Authority were coordinating a joint rescue operation and the Salvage vessel Smit Amandla was dispatched. The nearest vessels to the scene responded to the distress call. A helicopter rescue team and an air force C-130 fixed wing aircraft were on alert, Lambinon said.
4 May 2006
Bulk Alexandros T., Brazil for China, loaded with minerals, 33 crew on board, flooded, listed, broke in two and sank in lat 37 36.96S, long 29 55.62E at about 1930, UTC, yesterday. Six of the crew rescued by bulk CSE Fortune Express. Search underway for remaining crew members. Smit Marine confirmed last night that they had been awarded LOF and salvage tug SMIT Amandla proceeded to bulk Alexandros T. At that time it was reported that three or four holds had taken water and that she was starting to list heavily. Media reports this morning state that she has now sunk some 300 nautical miles off Port Alfred on the Eastern Cape coast. Although some crew have been rescued, a search and rescue operation is still ongoing for the missing crew members stated to be 33 in total.
4 May 2006
Received from Overseas Marine Enterprises Inc, managers of bulk Alexandros T Yesterday, while on laden passage from Brazil to China, capsize Alexandros T sustained water ingress and critical flooding in a number of cargo holds. The managers contracted salvors but the vessel’s situation deteriorated rapidly. Lying 300 miles off Port Elizabeth, South Africa, well beyond the range of rescue helicopters, the master ordered the evacuation of the vessel. Shipping in the area having been alerted, a nearby vessel, bulk CSE Fortune Express, made contact with Alexandros T and reported her sinking at 1752, GMT, May 3. It is understood that CSE Fortune Express has rescued six crew, five Filipino and one Romanian and continues to search for the remaining twenty-seven crew under the co-ordination of MRCC Cape Town. South African aircraft are also searching the area for survivors. The managers are either in close contact with or are trying to contact all the families of the crew. The nationalities of the crew are Greek (four), Filipino (24), Romanian (four) and Ukrainian (one).
5 May 2006
Rescue teams continued to search yesterday for 26 missing crew members from bulk Alexandros T which sank off the South African coast on Wednesday evening (May 3) in heavy seas and 45 knot winds. The 171,875 dwt vessel, laden with 155,000 tonnes of iron ore, was on a voyage from Ponta da Madeira, in Brazil, to China when it sustained heavy water ingress and flooding in several cargo holds. The master ordered the crew to abandon ship, after which seven crew members were rescued from a life raft and one from the water by the CSE Fortune Express, which reported the vessel went down at 1752, UTC. A spokesman for Greek managers overseas Marine Enterprises said a further four empty life rafts had been spotted but these were empty. South African aircraft are continuing to look for survivors. While Craig Lambinon, of the National Sea Rescue Institute in Cape Town said the weather improved yesterday morning the missing crew members “have been in the water a long time”. Overseas Marine Enterprises’ spokesman reported 20-foot swells and said that a storm is now forecast. Dutch company Smit signed a Lloyd’s Open Form contract for the vessel’s salvage and tug Smit Amandla is continuing to proceed towards the site of the casualty to join the rescue efforts, the Overseas Marine Enterprises’ spokesman said. He could not confirm ownership of the cargo. The company is in close contact with or is trying to contact all the families of the crew. The nationalities of the crew are four Greeks, 24 Filipinos, four Romanians and one Ukrainian. The vessel, which was built at Santierul Naval Constanta of Romania in 1989, is flagged in St Vincent & the Grenadines, classed by Lloyd’s Register and entered with the London Steamship Owners Mutual Insurance Association. In a statement, Lloyd’s Register said the vessel’s last special survey took place in 2004. “There are no outstanding surveys or overdue conditions of class. To the best of our knowledge, the vessel was in compliance with the relevant class and statutory requirements. “The ship’s last port state control inspection took place in Fremantle in March 2005. There was no detention. “We await further information and will assist any investigation into the incident as required by the owner, the flag state administration or any other authority.” Lloyd’s Register confirmed yesterday that the vessel’s No 1 aft bulkhead and double bottom was strengthened in October 2002 in accordance with 1998 requirements for evaluation and upgrading of the foremost hold structure under conditions of hold flooding for existing single side bulk carriers. Alexandros T.’s owners had been informed of new additional safety measures for bulk carriers under Solas Chapter XII, which are due to come into force on July 1 and which contain restrictions on sailing with any hold empty (or less than 10% full) when carrying heavy cargoes. The bulker was detained in November 2003 in the USA for deficiencies which included numerous fractured brackets in No 3,4,5, 6, 8 and 9 cargo holds and an ISM inspection revealed that the vessel and company had failed to fully implement the requirements of the ISM Code through the Safety Management System. Various vessels are on scene or being dispatched to assist in the search for the 26 crewmen still missing. Rescue officials said hopes were fading today for 26 crew missing for almost two days after a ship carrying iron ore sank off South Africa’s east coast. “The possibility exists that there could be lives lost,” Andre Botes, head of the search-and-rescue team said. “We did not see any of them last night, we had hoped any survivors would fire flares which could be visible to the searching plane. With hypothermia, and the length of time they have been in the water, there is likely to be loss of life.” Six of 33 crew on board bulk Alexandros T. were rescued on Wednesday shortly after it sank off Port Alfred. It had been taking on water in strong winds. On Thursday, rescuers in a South African military plane spotted a seventh man in the water near the scene of the sinking, 285 miles off shore and directed a ship to the spot. Of the crew vessel, 24 were Filipinos, four were Greeks, four were Romanians and one was Ukrainian. Another rescue worker who declined to be identified said the chances of finding any surviving crew members were remote. Botes said concern for the missing was heightened by worsening weather on Friday, with winds of up to 19 knots and waves of 3.5 metres. Alexandros T. was carrying 155,000 tonnes of iron ore from Brazil to China. Asked about the likelihood of pollution from the sunken vessel, Botes said its own oil had risen to the surface but it posed no danger. “The ship sank very far off shore, and there are very powerful currents between where it sank and the shore, so the little oil from the ship’s engines is being broken up. We don’t expect any big pollution threat,” he said. “As for its iron ore cargo, it came from the ground and has gone back into the ground.” He said the rescued crew were still at sea on board the CSE Fortune Express, which had helped rescue them. A salvage ship was heading to the site on Friday to help with the rescue work, he added. It was not clear why Alexandros T. began taking in water.
6 May 2006
Sea rescue teams today suspended their search for 26 sailors missing since they abandoned bulk Alexandros T. off South Africa’s east coast on Wednesday night. Officials from the rescue mission today sited bad light as the reason for halting the search that has thus far involved bulk carriers sent to the vicinity of the ship, an air force craft and passing merchant ships. Speaking after the all day search today, a spokesman for the mission said that the search would resume only if new information were received or if there were sightings of survivors or a life raft.
7 May 2006
Following statement issued by Overseas Marine Enterprises Inc, Managers of bulk Alexandros T. in Durban at 1430, local time, today, following the safe return to land this morning of the seven survivors from bulk Alexandros T., rescued by bulk CSE Fortune Express: The owners and managers would like to thank the South African Air Force for their assistance, their professionalism, and their bravery during this difficult situation. Their contribution cannot be overestimated. In particular, special appreciation needs to be given to the crew of the Air Force C-130 that flew several missions to locate survivors; and the helicopter crew of 15 Squadron, who with great skill in difficult conditions retrieved the seven surviving crew members from bulk CSE Fortune Express at sea about 50 nautical miles east of Durban this morning. We would also like to thank the owners and crew of bulk CSE Fortune Express for bringing and welcoming the survivors aboard giving them dry clothing, food and comfort. In addition we would like to express our deep appreciation to Lt. Col. Andre Bothes, the head of the South African Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre that managed the around-the-clock search and rescue effort. With regard to the crew of bulk Alexandros T the seven who are safe here in Durban and the crew who are still missing, we are very thankful that the survivors are safe. They are now recovering from their ordeal. Since landing this morning, they have obtained new clothes, and other necessary items. They have rested, and they are being seen by doctors and are receiving counseling. Twenty-six crew members are still missing. We have not given up hope, nor have we stopped looking for them. Tug Smit Amandla remains in the vicinity of the sinking. At this time we do not know why the vessel sank. The crew will be interviewed, and their statements will be studied. Also, the radio communications with the vessel will be thoroughly examined and evaluated. This is a long process. As of now we do not have all of the answers and until we do we cannot speculate.
8 May 2006
The seven survivors from bulk Alexandros T that sank off Port Alfred on Wednesday (May 3) are still recovering at a secret hideaway in Durban, while the search for their missing compatriots has been suspended pending further details of their whereabouts. A South African Air Force helicopter flew seven of the survivors into Durban yesterday morning. The search for the 26 missing crewmen will not resume unless new information is received or there are new sightings of life rafts. Search and rescue officials said tug Smit Amandla had searched for survivors all day yesterday to no avail.
10 May 2006
The managers of bulker Alexandros T dated today, stated: The search for survivors continues, with salvage tug Smit Amandla still on station for the owner’s account, but with no sightings of any more survivors. Since the tug began its search on May 5, it has covered an area of about 1,500 square miles. However since then, currents and winds have more than doubled the required search area and given the passage of time, there is now little hope that any more survivors will be found. The operation is being kept under review. A US Coast Guard inspection of the vessel in November, 2003, uncovered deficiencies that were promptly rectified. The vessel had at that stage been recently acquired by the owners and was in the process of being upgraded to their own very high standards. Since that 2003 inspection the vessel has passed through Special Survey and numerous Port State Control inspections without detention in states with extremely high levels of scrutiny such as Australia and South Africa, the most recent inspection being at the last load port when no material deficiencies were noted. Regular class and statutory inspections found the vessel to have met all class and statutory requirements and to be ISM compliant. Lloyd’s Register, the vessel’s classification society issued a statement on May 4 confirming that the vessel was fully up to date with all classification and statutory inspections. Additional inspections by interested commercial parties, likewise, found nothing to question the structural integrity of the vessel. The managers are committed to doing everything in their power to identify the causes of the loss of Alexandros T.
5 May 2006 Bechar (Algeria)
The former head of state-owned Algerian shipping company CNAN, Ali Koudil, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for negligence leading to loss of life following the loss of one of the company’s ships with 16 crew members off Algiers in 2004. Four other former CNAN senior executives also received 15-year prison terms for their role in the loss of the Bechar and the grounding of another CNAN ship, the Batna, in stormy conditions off the Algerian coast. There were no details yesterday of the verdicts returned on the 20 or so other defendants in the case, most of them members of the crews of the two ships who were accused of being absent from their posts on the day of the drama. The guilty verdicts against Mr Koudil and his colleagues were returned despite pleas from defence lawyers that those who bore the real responsibility for what had happened had not been prosecuted. Both the Bechar and the Batna were out of service. Built in 1978 and in a parlous state of repair, they had been moored just outside the port of Algiers pending a decision from CNAN on their futures. The court heard that when the storm came up they were prevented by their state of disrepair from making it out to sea to find calmer conditions. Buffeted by strong winds, the Bechar broke up on rocks close to one of the port’s jetties, losing all but two of its 18-man crew, while the crew of the Batna escaped without casualty after the vessel ran aground on sand. The court heard that the master of the Bechar made repeated calls for help between 1630 and 2000 hours, asking notably for a helicopter to airlift the crew to safety. His calls remained unheeded, however, apparently because there was no helicopter available capable of effecting a rescue mission. Defence lawyers claimed that the real cause of the disaster had not been the state of the ships but the absence of an adequate rescue capability. One lawyer told the court that the coastguard service was responsible for rescue operations at sea in co-operation with the Ministry of Defence. He pointed to the existence of a national centre with responsibility for carrying out rescue missions. “If this centre, run by the Ministry of Defence, has not the means to save 16 seafarers, how can you expect the managers of a shipping company to be able to help them,” he asked. “It is the institutions of the state which were failing and not the accused.” Port of Algiers Authority also came under attack for having ordered CNAN to remove the two vessels from the port and placed them in moorings unsuitable for ships in their condition.
8 May 2006 Ouro Do Brasil (Liberia)
The families of 14 crewmen who died when fruit juice tanker Ouro do Brasil and trawler Lindsay were in collision between Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth on May 8, 2005, are considering legal action against the companies who owned the vessels. Essa Bosch, a spokesperson for the families, says legal action will ensure the companies take responsibility for not adhering to collision safety precautions. A marine inquiry was instituted by the minister of environmental affairs late last year to determine the cause. The court has awarded no compensation for the families of the deceased. Only two people, including the master of one of the vessels, survived. The enquiry found that the collision occurred as a result of negligence by both vessels.
6 June 2006 MEOB BAY (Namibia)
Namibia’s worst ever maritime disaster, the sinking fishing (general) Meob Bay with the loss of 19 lives on June 7 2002, had a sequel in one of South Africa’s top two courts last week. With litigation over the sinking of Meob Bay still pending both in Namibia and South Africa, the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa on Thursday (June 1) gave the green light for the sale of a ship belonging to an associate company of the marine mining company blamed for the Meob Bay disaster. The court ordered that the proceeds from the sale are supposed to go into a fund, w ere it should remain until litigation that the owner of Meob Bay, the Luederitz-based Marco Fishing, has against the owners of the mining ship blamed for the Meob Bay’s sinking, has been resolved in South Africa. For Marco Fishing, the victory that it won in the Supreme Court of Appeal might be a substantially empty one, though, demonstrating the high price often associated with a failure to bring litigation to a speedy conclusion. According to the court’s judgment, oceanographical research vessel The Spirit of Namibia (1104 gt, built 1966) has been stripped of millions of dollars worth of equipment in the almost four years it has lain docked in Cape Town. It has also accumulated liabilities of hundred of thousands of dollars in port dues and has deteriorated to such an extent that it is now deemed to be suitable only to be sold for scrap. The money that could be realized from the sale of the vessel might not even be enough to pay Marco Fishing’s legal costs in the various court cases that have already been fought over the fate of the ship. Meob Bay set out to sea from Luederitz with a crew of 28 late on the afternoon of June 7 2002. Only a few miles out of port, the vessel’s propeller caught a piece of drifting rope attached to an anchor on the ocean floor. The propeller became snagged in the rope and, in heavy swell, the fishing vessel quickly started taking on masses of water. Within less than two and a half minutes Meob Bay sank. Nineteen crew members died in what has to date been the most deadly maritime accident yet in Namibian waters. The anchor and rope, Marco Fishing is claiming, had been left at that spot by diamond mining vessel Lady S, which belonged to a South African registered company, Gemfarm. Marco Fishing initially had Lady S attached in Cape Town as it launched legal proceedings in South Africa against Gemfarm. It soon agreed to an offer from Gemfarm to instead have The Spirit of Namibia take Lady S’s place, since Gemfarm claimed to urgently need that vessel to continue working. At that stage, Marco Fishing was informed that The Spirit of Namibia, which belonged to an associate company of Gemfarm, Big Red Incorporated, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, was worth about R35 million. Big Red Incorporated and its South African registered holding company, Quarterdeck Prospecting and Mining, were Marco Fishing’s opponents in the case in which the court gave its judgment last week. On Dec 19 2002, Marco Fishing instituted legal action against Gemfarm, claiming damages of R7.98 million from that company, the events are related in the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment. The next court proceedings followed in August 2003, when Marco Fishing launched an urgent application in which it claimed that it had discovered that after The Spirit of Namibia had been attached, it had been stripped of a considerable amount of equipment, which was subsequently installed on another mining vessel in which Gemfarm also had an interest. At that stage a marine surveyor estimated that The Spirit of Namibia had been reduced to “a neglected hulk”, worth between R5.5 and R6 million. The outcome of that urgent case was that Gemfarm was ordered to furnish security in the sum of R3.5 million to Marco. By July 2004, a marine surveyor had another look at The Spirit of Namibia, concluded that it had deteriorated considerably, and expressed the view that its only remaining value was as scrap. By late September 2004, accumulated port dues amounted to over R837,000, which would have left no more than about R700,000 for distribution if the ship was sold at that stage, the Supreme Court of Appeal notes in its judgment. By the time the Cape High Court authorised the sale of The Spirit of Namibia, further outstanding port fees would have reduced that realisable amount by another R360,000. The remaining balance of R340,000 would not even have been sufficient to cover the legal costs that had already been awarded to Marco Fishing in litigation against Gemfarm, the court also noted. With the case between Marco Fishing and Gemfarm still pending, Gemfarm was provisionally declared bankrupt in November. It has since been finally liquidated. Big Red One Incorporated has however, at the time The Spirit of Namibia was substituted for Lady S, undertaken to be liable to pay any amount found due by Gemfarm, but how much more than a name registered in the British Virgin Islands that company is, still remains to be seen.
21 June 2006 Tutuma (Nigeria)
The joint efforts of the Police, Julius Berger, and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)’s firemen, yesterday, averted disaster, as product tanker Tutuma (4478 gt, built 1978), belonging to Obat Oil, caught fire in Lagos, where two people were seriously injured. According to eye witness account, Tutuma, at the company’s jetty at Beachland Estate, Apapa, Lagos, after off-loading petroleum product, suddenly exploded around 1300, Jun 20, without notice. Response came first from the NPA Fire Service, Apapa, and then two NPA tugs, Gusau and Olumo, while the police and Julius Berger came immediately after then. In a two pronged approach, while the NPA tugs, with fire-fighting capabilities, were dousing the flames on Tutuma with foam compounds to minimize the risk, the Julius Berger men endeavored to tow the vessel out of the berth. This way, they removed the fire from the Obat jetty, near the Obat storage tank, which contained PMS. The two workers involved in the fire incident have been rushed to hospital for treatment. The fire has been extinguished and normalcy was gradually returning to the area.
21 June 2006
Product tanker Tutuma exploded yesterday in Lagos while off-loading petroleum products to an independent oil marketer, leaving two persons seriously injured. The lighter vessel, Tutuma, had berthed with 5000 metric tonnes of premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol. Reports said that the vessel had been offloading products since Saturday night (Jun 17) when it berthed. However, an engine problem forced a halt to the offloading on Monday. But while engineers were working on the problem, an explosion occurred injuring the two crew members immediately. The injured crew members were immediately rushed to the hospital. Sources said the situation would have been worse but for the timely intervention of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) tug boats with which Tutuma was pulled out of the area of the depot to safety. A safety officer said the vessel actually berthed on Saturday after collecting products from a larger vessel that is still offshore, and while the problem started during products discharge, it never got beyond the deck as major part of the products were still trapped in the endangered vessel. Yesterday, men of the Nigerian Navy and their police counterpart, the fire fighting departments of NPA, Integrated Oil and Gas, Lagos State fire department, Julius Berger, Donel Jones Oil and a host of others were on ground to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
22 June 2006
Twenty-four hours after product tanker Tutuma exploded at the Ibafon jetty in Lagos, there are fears that many crew people may still be trapped in the vessel even as the National Maritime Authority (NMA) has commenced investigation into the cause of the accident. Hajia Lami Tumaka, Head of the Corporate Affairs Department of NMA said that a survey of the vessel has been carried out, adding that preliminary reports showed that the problem actually started from the engine room. She however denied that the incident was caused by lack of maintenance, stressing that from the report from officials of the survey department who accessed the situation, it was discovered that the explosion was caused by suspected engine problem. On visiting the site of the incident yesterday, the tanker vessel which has since been pulled to the opposite end of the Ibafon jetty to check the spread of the fire, had a fire fighting water tanker opposite. Assistant General Manager (AGM) Public Affairs of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. Christopher Borha, who confirmed that the Authority assisted in towing the jetty when it exploded said he could neither confirm nor say the cause of the explosion. A source at the National Maritime Authority (NMA) said that from the report of its officials from the survey department people are still trapped in the engine compartment of the vessel. The source said the explosion may have been caused by lack of maintenance of the vessel by its owners. A Ghanaian who is an electrical engineer on board the vessel, according to an eyewitness confirmed that a number of crew members were still trapped on board the vessel. The fact that the tanker vessel was laden with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Tumaka said, resulted in the explosion and the duration of the fire. She explained that the actual number of casualties could not be ascertained.