Thursday, July 11, 2013

One Container Ship Sinks, Another Re-Launches and Pirated Cargo Vessel Crew Vanish

Whilst the MOL Comfort and Albedo Disappear Beneath the Waves the Emma Maersk is set to Sail Again
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The fore part of the MOL Comfort finally sank in the high seas near 19'56"N 65'25"E, where the water depth exceeds 3 kilometres, at 19:00 UTC on July 10. On June 17, the 90,000 dwt dry cargo carrier had split in two, en route to Colombo after loading in Saudi Arabia. Ten days later, the aft part sank. From then, things got worse for the rest of the container ship as on July 6, a fire broke out on the rear end of her fore part, further adding to the major headache for shipping insurers.

Upon MOL’s request, one tugboat and two rescue boats had been responding to the fire. The salvage company also requested the assistance of the Indian Coast Guard in fighting the fire and the coast guard’s patrol boat Samudra Prahari arrived at the scene on July 8, and immediately started a fire-fighting effort with the others. However, due to adverse weather affecting the fire-fighting effort, it had been difficult to control the fire. Observations had shown that most of the containers on deck had been burnt out, while the company had not been able to confirm the situation in the cargo hold.

MOL has reported the sinking to the flag state of Bahamas, Indian authorities and parties concerned. A salvage team will be kept at the scene to monitor the situation and check to see if there is any oil leakage and floating containers. The result is about as bad as it can be for insurers, shippers and owners alike as, whilst the buoyancy of the containers enabled the stricken ship to remain afloat, there was always hope that a percentage of the cargo could be saved.

Earlier this week, we reported that the 15,566 dwt cargo ship MV Albedo had also sunk with the 15 crew members unaccounted for. Now, an EU Navfor maritime patrol aircraft reports that it sighted two life boats on a Somali beach approximately 14 miles north of the position of the Albedo but none of the crew or pirates were sighted in or near the lifeboats. There have also been updates from local news sites saying that four crew members and seven pirates had died when the ship sank. According to the reports, a pirate who gave his name as Hussein, commented:

"The ship has been gradually sinking for almost a week, but it sank totally last night [July 6]. We have confirmed that four foreign [crew] and seven pirates died. We are missing 13 in total. We had no boats to save them."

A statement by the Secretariat for Regional Maritime Security, Somali Contact Group on Counter Piracy and Maritime Security (Kampala Process) said during [the time of her capture], the ship had suffered significant mechanical and structural issues, and coupled with recent bad weather during the South West monsoon, [she] sank in relatively shallow waters off the Somali coast. Despite the precarious and fragile condition of the vessel, it appears that the 15 man crew on board the MV Albedo were kept on board by their armed captors – a situation that was entirely avoidable, given that the vessel was equipped with life boats.

The statement went on to say that when the vessel got into difficulty, pirates from another nearby pirated vessel, FV Naham 3 (which is currently astern of the Albedo), made attempts to move the hostages abroad the Albedo to the Naham 3. The Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) is a pan-industry alliance of ship owners, maritime unions, managers, manning agents, insurers and welfare associations working with the various anti pirate agencies and their Programme Director, Roy Paul, was scathing about a recent article published by Reuters saying:

“The article was full of errors and no one stopped to do simple research and even basic maths before publication. They claimed the Captain had been killed when in fact he left the vessel over a year ago when the Pakistan crew were released. 13 missing and 4 dead makes 17 out of a crew of 15. To date there are no confirmed deaths but of course the seafarers family members are very concerned. The irresponsible reporting of the situation and the repetition by other news and media has caused unnecessary additional worries to the family members with at least one family member being hospitalised with shock. The families suffer enough and MPHRP is supporting them through their local contacts and maritime partners.”  

Elsewhere in the container shipping industry, the Emma Maersk is to rejoin Maersk’s Asia-Europe (AE-10) fleet at Port Tangier Mediterranee on July 18, following a 5 month absence due to an ingress of water, which then flooded the engine room in February.

Photo: Left – A stack of twenty foot containers burn uncontrollably aboard the MOL Comfort as fire ravages her. Right – The forlorn superstructure of the Albedo stands proud of the water off the Somali coast.