Saturday, May 31, 2014

As One Ship Explodes In Comes a Verdict on the Previous Death of Freight Carrier

Terrible End for Two Vessels on Opposite Sides of the Planet
Shipping News Feature

UK – JAPAN – An inquest jury has returned a verdict of ‘misadventure’ in the case of the sunken freight vessel Swanland which experienced a catastrophic structural failure when heading directly into rough seas off the Llyn peninsula, in November, 2011. This news comes as another vessel, the chemical tanker, Shoko Maru, has foundered in Japanese waters, following a massive explosion and a subsequent fire leaving one person missing.

The Japanese flagged 2,242 dwt tanker exploded approximately 3 miles off the western Japanese port of Himeji on May 29 at around 0920 local time. Of the 8 crew members on board, 7 were rescued – 4 of whom needed hospital treatment. The ship’s Master, 64 year old Captain Masaichi Ando, has yet to be found. Fortunately the ship had unloaded her cargo of crude oil and was ‘virtually empty’ when the incident occurred, otherwise the resulting damage would have been far worse.

Four hours after the initial blast, the vessel started listing heavily due a rather large hole in her hull, smoke billowing forth as Japanese Coast Guard firefighting vessels hosed her down until she eventually started sinking, bow first, before reportedly being fully submerged at around 1900 local time. The explosion would appear to have occurred below deck hence the limited casualties as all the crew saved were working on the open deck when the accident occurred.

Over in the UK, an inquest jury heard the harrowing details of the event surrounding the foundering of the 3,137 dwt general freighter, Swanland, which sank on her way to Cowes, Isle of Wight from Llanddulas, Wales. Six members of her all Russian crew died that night, with just 2 survivors, the Second Officer Roman Savin, and Able Seaman Vitaly Karpenko, both of whom were airlifted to safety. The bodies of Ship Master Yury Shmelev, Chief Engineer Geeadiy Meshkov, Second Engineer Mikhail Starchevoy, Able Seaman Sergey Kharchenko, and ship's cook Able Seaman Oleg Andriets, all remain lost at sea. Chief Officer Leonid Safonov, was pronounced dead after his body was recovered from the sea.

The jury’s verdict of misadventure shares many similarities with a verdict of accidental death. One possible distinction is where a person deliberately undertakes a task which results in death, rather than inadvertent action causing the death. A report released last year by the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) came to the conclusion that poor loading combined with a lack of maintenance had been the cause of the accident with the rough seas exacerbating weakness in the vessels midsection, causing her to break in half.

Photo: A lone life ring bobs in the water astern of the Shoku Maru after she has sunk following the explosion and subsequent fire.