NL55 Asia Accident Report 2015
Capt Francis Lansakara
FNI LLM (specialist maritime law)
The first shipping casualty of 2015 was reported in the middle of January, with the news China: 21 killed when tug boat sinks in Yantze River. The tug “JMS Delta” also known as “Wan Shenzhou 67” was constructed in October 2014 by the builder Anhui Bengbu Shenzhou Machinery, China (www.ahbbcc.com/en/) for a Singapore company and was under Singapore registry at the time of accident. On the 15 January 2015, after steaming about 100 nautical miles in the Yantze River while undergoing sea trials, she experienced a sudden tilt followed by flooding and sank closer to the Yantze mouth near the commercial hub Shanghai killing everyone on board except for three.
Most of those who died were foreigners. Under the general terms of shipbuilding contracts the vessels will be handed to owners after the successful completion of trials therefore it is believed that the builder is fully responsible for the management and control of the tug including safety of life. Report of full and comprehensive investigation is not available until today, except the Provincial Government reports that safety procedures before trials have not been completed and reporting of ship condition required before going for sea trials had not been carried out. This scanty conclusion is insufficient to draw lessons for the future, however
from this accident one message is clear “all measures relating to safety of life should never be compromised.”
Sinking of Dong Fang Zhi Xing (Eastern Star)
The next major shipping casualty, also from the same region. On the 1st June 2015 MV Dong Fung Zhi Xing (Eastern Star ) while cruising in the Yangtze River near the coordinates 29 degrees 42.4 minutes North and 112 degrees 55.25 minutes East, in the vicinity of Jingzhou region she was overcome by a severe storm or tornado and capsized with 454 people on board, killing all but 12 people. Although it was initially claimed to be a tornado, according to China Metrological Administration a tornado struck a nearby county 8 KM away, with the wind force of about 95 NM per hour, did not affect the ship directly, but a massive thunderstorm with wind gusting to about 65 NM per hour was in the vicinity of the ship and believed to have directly affected the ship.
Although the China State Council investigation team concluded that heavy storm caused the Eastern Star to capsize, it also found that the shipping company and the local authorities had flaws in their daily management and suggested that 43 people be punished accordingly. The official report also stated that the incident was “an extraordinarily serious disaster caused by strong winds and heavy rains resulting from a squall line accompanied with a downburst, a rare type of severe convective weather”.
In our analysis ignorance of weather warnings could be a major factor similar to another recent maritime disaster in USA coast (EL Faro) and then official admittance of management flaws in the shipping company and local authorities could be interpreted as negligence in the safety management aspect of the shipping company. The local authorities on the other hand have turned a blind eye to obvious flaws such as safety breaches of the shipping company.
Ferry with 110 passengers capsized in Indonesia
On the 19th of December 2015 passenger ferry Marina Baru 2B was en route from Kolaka to Bansalae, Southern Sul awesi, Indonesia near the coordinates of 3 degrees 49 minutes South and 120 degrees 50 minutes East (off the coast of Bonnie island), capsized during stormy weather. There were 110 passengers and 12 crew members said to be on board among which 63 were reported to have died. According to Port Authorities at Siwa, South Sulawesi, the ferry crew radioed in to report about leakage caused by massive waves striking the ferry. Survivors accounts of events indicate that the ferry experienced bad Asia Maritime Accident Report 2015 Grieving relatives of JMS Delta victims Salvage crane lifting sunken tug & removing trapped bodies 12
The cause of the accident was due to inclement weather conditions as officials have declared, however other possible causes could be ignorance of weather warnings, poor water tight integrity and poor emergency preparedness.
Six Missing After Collision in Singapore Strait
Thorco Cloud (a bunker fuel tanker) collided with Stolt Commitment (a chemical tanker) in the Singapore Strait, the collision occurring on 16th December 2015 about 2000 hours Indonesian time in the position about 6 nautical miles north west of Batam Island within the Indonesian Maritime Boundary. This area is also under Vessel Traffic Information Service (VTIS) stationed in Singapore, the coverage including inter alia continuous information on traffic situations. Although Stolt Commitment did not sustain major damage, the impact caused the Thorco Cloud to split into two and sink shortly afterwards with all its crew. During the rescue operation six of the crew were rescued and the other six lost their life.
At the point of collision Stolt Commitment was heading East on the East Bound Traffic Lane, whereas the Thorco Cloud appeared to be on the starboard side of East Bound Lane, probably as a crossing vessel. The Stolt commitment had the Thorco Cloud on her starboard side, therefore she (Stolt Commitment) is required to alter her course to starboard under the COLREG. Whether she could be exempted from alteration of course to starboard is a question of fact, such as heavy traffic and obstructions, etc. Next, if the give way vessel is unable to take action, the stand on vessel shall take whatever necessary action to avoid collision. This will lead to sharing of blame to some degree.
This area is also under mandatory reporting known as STRAITREP proposed by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore which had been adopted by IMO. The Vessel Traffic Information Service (VTIS) is part of that service, although masters remain responsible for their action. The VTIS will come under some scrutiny as to the effectiveness if its information service. There is no weather condition that could be blamed and the visibility was good at the time.
Maritime casualties from Bangladesh, Philippines and Malaysia adding to the numbers
On the 22 February in Bangladesh the twin-decker MV Mostofa was carrying about 140 passengers in the Padma River. About 69 people were killed as the ship sank after colliding with a cargo ship; on the 2 July 2015 a passenger vessel MBCA Kim Nirvana capsized near the port in Ormoc City, Central Philippines killing at least 62 people; on the 3 September 2015 a wooden boat carrying passengers illegally from Malaysia to Indonesia capsized in the Strait of Malacca, killing around 61 passengers. Overcrowding and poor safety records appeared to be the causes.
In our opinion the 2015 casualties shows ignorance of weather warnings are becoming a major issue. Due to the precision of weather reports, the commercial aspects of shipping will be at disadvantage as it is happening within both developed and developing shipping communities and going to be a dominating factor in future shipping casualties. Compromising safety of life at sea is well known to the shipping community for decades and as a result higher casualties normally occur on board ships within national boundaries where ships are not subject to international rules, whereas the human element in misjudgement and maintaining effective vessel traffic information services require training and upgrading.