Monday, September 16, 2013

Disgrace of Veil of Secrecy over Report on Cargo Vessel Sinking

Union Asks - What Happened to the Livestock Carrier that Caused So Many Deaths?
Shipping News Feature

UK – PANAMA – WORLDWIDE – Maritime unions are rarely, and often understandably, the friends of flags of convenience, and now Nautilus, the union which represents 24,00 European maritime professionals, has expressed outright disgust at the decision by Panama to prevent public access to a long-awaited report on the investigation into the 2009 loss of the livestock carrier Danny F II. The horrific accident which saw the ship go down with around forty crew, as well as over 28,000 head of sheep and cattle, occurred in December 2009 off the Lebanese coast. In a nightmare scenario rescue attempts by naval forces were hampered by bad weather and the thousands of floating animal carcasses.

The vessel, constructed in Finland in 1975 as the car carrier Don Carlos, underwent conversion for her final role in 1994 when she was reflagged under the Liberian registry. Prior to registry as a Panamanian vessel in 2005 she also travelled under the St. Vincent and Grenadines pennant. The ship had a history of problems and had been previously detained in New Zealand principally on safety grounds with reports stating her bulkheads were holed and watertight doors seals ineffective.*

The sinking occurred in the Mediterranean as the ship was sailing from Montevideo, Uruguay to Tartarus, Syria and the many souls lost in the disaster included two Nautilus members, the electrotechnical officer and the ship’s master, Captain John M Milloy, who was reported to have remained aboard when the ship capsized. Nautilus are not alone in pressing for the report, recently submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to be made public, the International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA) and International Organization of Masters, Mates, and Pilots (MMP) have also demanded action.

Nautilus has raised repeated concerns over the slow progress of the flag state’s investigation of the loss and the failure to produce a report on the incident even though Panamanian officials had stated as far back as October 2010 that publication was ‘imminent’. The report was finally lodged with the IMO at the end of July, but it cannot be opened or downloaded via the UN agency’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) database. As a result, other flag state officials, family members and unions have been unable to read the findings.

Nautilus is protesting to the IMO and the Panamanian Maritime Authority about the lack of access to the report. General Secretary Mark Dickinson commented:

“We are utterly appalled that after all this time the report is not publicly available. Ever since the ship was lost, the families of those who died have been treated with contempt and the move to withhold the results of the investigation adds further insult to injury. This was a very major casualty with significant loss of life and there was worrying evidence suggesting the Danny F II had suffered from safety problems before the accident. It is therefore imperative that there is transparency and disclosure to demonstrate that concerns have been properly addressed and that investigations had assessed technical issues including the potential effects of any alterations to hull or equipment, and the factors affecting the stability of the vessel.

“Above all, it is essential that the relatives of those who died, and the shipping industry in general, can be given some comfort and reassurance that lessons have been learned to prevent similar disasters in the future. The IMO Secretary General has set the worthy objective of halving deaths at sea, but that will never be achieved if this sort of obstruction continues.”

* Danny F II - Bulkhead between fuel oil tank and water ballast tank holed, Bulkhead between stern tank and steering gear space corroded and holed, Navigation lights and shapes unserviceable, VHF radio equipment defective, Weathertight door and deck air pipe closing arrangement defective. Courtesy Fairplay Register of Shipping.

Photo: The ship being converted to a livestock carrier at the Pan United yard in Singapore in 1994.