I’ve hesitated to comment on the Sydney Morning Herald, SMH, report regarding the Pasha Bulker partly because I don’t really care who wins the Australian election in November unless it’s Edna Everidge, in which case my investment in gladioli futures will pay off handsomely, but also because there simply isn’t enough information to get full overview of what really happened.
John Konrad at gCaptain has done a good analysis based on the information givenin the SMH report which I’d certainly recommended reading.
But the objective of the SMH report was not to reveal the wrong-doing of the captain of the Pasha Bulker, it was to create the illusion of wrong-doing by the New South Wales government and the Australian federal government in suppressing or, to use the SMH’s term, ‘sitting on’ the report of the incident because the report has not been released after four months. It was written so that the opposition Liberal party could then ask questions based on the SMH report.
What the SMH suppressed, or ‘sat on’ to use it’s own terms, is that few reports of such incidents are completed in such a short time. Take a look at the MAIB website, which surely can’t be accused of ‘sitting on’ Australian government reports, and see how many reports are pending and how old they are.
What the SMH also ‘sat on’ is the fact that it is a legal requirement that, after a preliminary report is completed, all those questioned or who were participants in the incident, are given the opportunity to respond to it before the report is issued. I would emphasise, it’s a requirement under Australian law and no report can be released until those responses are received. A responsible reporter would have asked whether that process had been completed before accusing anyone of suppressing information.
What the SMH also forgot, or to use its own terms ‘sat on’, is that in the build-up to the national election there are limits on what national governments are actually allowed to say or do.
That the master of the Pasha Bulker made serious errors is undeniable. At the same time what the SMH report suppressed, or “sat on”, are what influences made him make the decisions he did. It does not tell us what orders he gave to the officer on watch, it doesn’t tell us what orders the officer on watch thought he’s been given. It doesn’t tell us what the master discussed with the Chief Engineer over breakfast. It doesn’t tell us what the many other ships in the same position did – and some of them made decisions that were just as bad but were lucky enough to get away with it. There is great deal that the SMH report declines to tell us.
Interestingly, the SMH slags off New Zealand Maritime for not releasing a half-cocked, incomplete report but doesn’t slag off the Panamanian Registry for not releasing its report, or the Japanese classification society for not releasing its report. I guess there aren’t too many Australian voters in Panama and Japan is very big investor in Australia. Big advertisers, the Japanese.
What has become clear is that there is a bunch of folk who weren’t on the Pasha Bulker who won’t come out it smelling much of roses, who would benefit from a fast, half-assed report.