Maritime Safety News Today – 30th January 2008

January 30, 2008
Language Barrier Caused Coast Guard To Underestimate SF Bay Oil Spill
crew and inexperience in assessing the accident prompted them to initially estimate the oil spill from the m/v Cosco Busan at 140 gallons. 
Royal Navy finds sunken wreck of ms EXPLORER
Shipping Times – UK
The seabed in the search area was flat and featureless, but a contact was detected at a range of 4373m from the reported sinking position of the vessel.
Data on sunken ferry held back
Vancouver Sun – British Columbia, Canada
BC Ferries has lost an appeal against a BC Supreme Court ruling that prevents the company from publishing a further report on the sinking of the ferry Queen 
ISU Conference to Include Casualty Simulation
Posted 01/29/08 at 10:41 AM
The significance of Lloyd’s Form (LOF), will provide the focus for the International Salvage Union’s Associate Members’ Day conference in London on April 2. This theme was chosen as 2008 is LOF’s centenary year…

Piracy Needs A SASSy Response

December 31, 2007

xpect to see much discussion on the effectiveness or otherwise of Ship Security Alert Systems over the next few weeks with the scheduled publication of a study by former BIMCO International Liaison Officer Thomas Timlen, now visiting research fellow in the Maritime Security Program at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. The study’s conclusions are not likely to be a surprise – SSAS as it now operates won’t be particularly useful in countering the predicted terrorist seizure of a ship, any more than it’s proving helpful in countering piracy off Somalia.A shot across the bows of anyone basking in the warmth of misplaced complacency about SSAS was fired at a conference in Singapore on 7th December 2007 at which Timlen warned that a terrorist attack leaves little time for active response to the threat. The past 12 months have been an active demonstration, with the help of pirates working for Somali warlords, that SSAS need a re-think.

Of course, the pirates themselves, and certainly any terrorists planning to take a ship, are well aware of SSAS, a system that can trigger a covert alert from at least two places aboard ship, provided the crew know how to use it, think about using it, have time to use it and do so in a situation of fear and intimidation for which seafarers are not trained.

Then there is the issue of getting that alert to a force capable of responding quickly and appropriately.

In the case of the taking of the Danica White the master thought he had triggered the SSAS but had not. He appears to have pushed the test button on the system rather than the alert. Another seafarer iknew where the second alert button was situated and had the opportunity to use it but didn’t while yet another didn’t know where the alert was placed.

A US dock landing ship, the Carter Hall raised the alarm when it noticed that the Danica White was heading for Somali waters. By the time it got the response it could do little more than sink the small boats the pirates used to board her and give up the chase when the vessel entered Somali territorial waters.

The human element, in that case, was the weak link in the chain.

Freelance maritime affairs writer Andrew Guest asks the pertinent question in the title to a feature article on the Bimco website: SSAS: is anybody out there?

Guest poins out that the alert cannot be received by vessels in the vicinity but goes to the relevant maritime administration and the company operating the ship, usually thousands of miles from the action. The alert has to be verified but even in cases of false alerts it has proved difficult to contact the vessel concerned. Sucvh was the case with the Italian ship Jolly Turchese in mid December. In the case of a genuine alert the crew is hardly likely to be able to confirm that a seizure is under way.

Says Guest: “In one incident involving a small tanker boarded by robbers in waters off Nigeria, the officers later explained they had been under “close observation”. Faced with armed men and perhaps with too little time to act, few if any are going to risk their own safety by doing anything suspicious.”

Even with an alert, the question arises over the appropriate response, an issue clouded by realpolitik and rules of engagement. In an attempt to stabilise that poor and wretched country, the US backs the largely powerless Somalia government. Encroachment upon Somalia territory weakens even further the mandate of the government it seeks to support. It is likely, too, that the tragic, and militarily punishing, events depicted in the book and film Blackhawk Down still colour US strategic and tactical thinking about engagement in Somalia.

Guest also refers to a North Korean cargo vessel, the Dai Hong Dan, taken by hijackers, an incident highlighted by those who think seafarers should be armed: “In one incident where a naval vessel did take action by dispatching a helicopter, the crew were reportedly able to exploit the distraction caused among the hijackers to over-power them. In this case, however, the crew had access to weapons, something which both seafarers’ unions and shipowners have generally not supported.”

And understandably so. North Korea requires all males to undergo military training, including weapons handling so the crew were familiar with the use of guns in a way that very few other nationalities are. The Philippine educational system, which provides around a quarter of maritime manpower, has its Reserve Officer Training Corps, a left-over from the time the islands were an American colony, to which a number of Filipino seafarers undoubtedly at one time belonged, but few ROTC members have any experience in weapons handling or military tactics.

It should also be noted that the ship had a well thought-out plan in case of boarding by pirates. The crew took control of the engine room and the steering gear and were therefore able to prevent the ship from entering Somnali waters and keep it in a position in which US military engagement was possible.

The ship, too, was carrying nothing more hazardous than sugar. Does one really want boatloads of weapons-incompetent Dirty Harry’s ferrying oil, LNG, ethylene or any of the other hundred and one disasterously explosive or polluting cargoes? And who will be held responsible for major pollution resulting from an action that goes wrong?

The Golden Nori carried a highly explosive cargo, which limited the response that could be taken. Nobody could fire a shot or indulge in fanciful heroics. All that could be done was to lay siege to the vessel. The pirates from the Golden Nori allegedly left the vessel when they were paid off. Some of those pirates have been arrested but those who benefitted most, the warlords, will remain free.

The BIMCO feature follows the same advice MAC offers in its commentary on the Danica White incident: “The recent spate of hijackings has helped focus minds on the issue of how companies manage their security risks. It shows the need to keep crews both trained and well-informed in security matters and underlines the responsibilities of the operator to ensure not just compliance with mandatory requirements but that everything possible has been done to protect the safety of employees, particularly when they sail in dangerous waters… Companies should also ensure the SSAS is working and crews know how to use it, even if it might be regarded by them as something they are unlikely to have the opportunity to use. Even if the SSAS were to be successfully used, crews might also believe the chances of it resulting in either the thwarting of the hijack or their swift rescue are slim. Such scepticism could at least help keep them even more alert to the risks of a hijack.”

More recently, American Shipper cites Timlen in an article headlined: If a silent ship alert is activated, who would hear it? “Silent security alert systems may offer little hope in thwarting or minimizing the devastation resulting from a terrorist attack onboard a ship… If the ship is positioned near a densely populated area, residential and/or commercial district, or alongside a cruise ship with thousands of passengers, no one on shore will be alerted and therefore no opportunity to evacuate will be available,” Timlen told Shippers’ NewsWire, “… If ship security alert systems made direct contact with the actual responders, such as nearby naval forces, this would improve response time significantly in comparison with how the system is set up now”.

Timlen, of course, is waving the ‘terrorism threat’ flag, it’s a good way of gathering the grants so necessary for funding research projects. Certainly, the seizure of a ship by terrorists is possible but largely irrelevant: the mere fear generated by, and response to, that possibility is sufficient to suit the terrorist’s purpose. Terrorists don’t win when they blow things up, they win when those cultures and societies they target surrender their core values in response to threat.

There’s no evidence that Somali piracy, or piracy off Indonesia, the Philippines or in the Straits of Malacca, or off Nigeria, or anywhere else is connected with Al Quaida or any other terrorist group any more than it has been for the past eight centuries.

Be that as it may, it’s probably a useful flag to wave – nobody puts money into studies of piracy and how to prevent it, which is why it’s been referred to as “the industry’s dirty little secret”.

Can piracy be eliminated? Probably not. It doesn’t have a single common ideological focus or centre of power, it’s a technique for the acquisition of resources. Indeed, piracy and kidnap for ransom was an established way of doing business among legitimised powers east and west, north and south, well into the mid-19th century. When the remains of the Magellan expedition to the Philippines, a financially successful venture, returned to Spain in 1526 its first act off Borneo was to hijack a merchant ship captained by a Manila datu and hold him to ransom.

Forceful neutralisation of the warlords that run piracy in countries with weak central governments, elimination of corrupt military officials who permit and sometimes collaborate with pirates and actively participate in piracy, the eradication of ‘respectable’ big business people who hire and fund piracy, none of whom are much affected whether or not their pirate boats are blown out of the water, is a tall order in the 21st century. The fall of empires worldwide in the latter end of the 20th century created numerous weak and unstable states in which piracy flourishes and the zeitgeist is such that sending a gunboat to eliminate the centres of piracy regardless of public opinion is not an option.

The IMO and the UN have both called for action to end to piracy, but its a sprawling geopolitical challenge to do so.

None of which is much help to you, at the pointy end, looking down the barrel of an M16 or an AK47, or at an RPG pointed at the cargo tanks of your LNG carrier. Your life is worth more than the million or so dollars that might be paid for your release.

The biggest deterent to pirates is an alert crew, an alert bridge team, lights, high pressure hoses and ship manouvers, not firepower, SSAS or warships. Establish a strategy in case of attempted boarding by pirates, perform anti-piracy drills and ensure that each seafarer on your ship knows what to do, and what not to do, when threatened with boarding. Establish what you will do in case of boarding and what each member of the crew is going to do.

And disabuse your crew of any false sense of confidence that when the bad guys take the ship some aquatic version of the 7th Cavalry will come thundering over the horizon when the SSAS alert button is pressed. It probably won’t.

The Danica White and The Pirates – All That Was Missing Was A Welcome Mat

December 12, 2007

About the only thing the master and crew of the Danica White did right 205 miles off the Somali coast on the morning of 1st June, 2007, was to do what the pirates told them, according to the just-released English version of the official Danish Maritime Authority report . That might seem unremarkable since they were faced with fifteen pirates armed with machineguns, but it’s difficult to know how an individual will react under threat.

The report itself is remarkable. It’s the first time to my knowledge that such a report has been made public. Usually they remain confidential, presumably in the hope that pirates won’t get information that they clearly already know. The DMA took the wiser course.

The report makes for sad reading. The Danica White was a sitting duck largely because it chose to be.

It hardly matters that the master was apparently unaware of the MARLO Bahrain recommendation to stay more than 200 miles off the Somali Coast, or that he was unaware that the charterer had insisted that the ship keep more than 200 miles off the coast when he drew up his original passage plan, which would have kept the ship 150 miles off the coast. The company did eventually tell him to keep the 200 miles limit, but there were no specific instructions regarding piracy this time around.
All the same, the master was confident that the vessel was safe from pirates that far out. It wasn’t.

An intriguing detail is that at 1800 the previous day a vessel appeared on the Danica White’s AIS screen as a 220 metre long Pilot ship with a fishing licence suposed called Nautica something. It was sailing in the opposite direction at about 2 nm. The master saw the ship and estimated its length at less than 100 metres. The master thought it ‘looked odd’, it was odd enough to cause comment among the crew.

It doesn’t take rocket science to configure an AIS with false information and one is tempted to speculate that it might, in fact, have been the mothership which is known to tow the smaller, faster pirate boats into position.

With hindsight, the Danica White’s officers may wish they’d sent a query to the IMB’s piracy reporting centre. With foresight, the next officers to see a vessel whose appearance doesn’t match its AIS desription will do so.

The Danica White’s stern freeboard was just half a metre to a metre. As far as the pirates were concerned all that was missing was a welcome mat. They hardly needed the hooked ladder with which they boarded the unsuspecting vessel from their three fibreglass boats.

Had there been a lookout or two posted, the approaching pirates would have been seen around a half hour before they boarded. The navigator was the sole lookout because the crew had decided that they didn’t want to carry out lookout duties and the master wasn’t inclined to argue with them.

That lack of discipline handed the Danica White to the pirates and earned its crew a lengthy stay as guests of the Mogadishu Mafia at a room rate of $1.5 million.

At the time, the Danica White was making about 5 knots. Had the pirates been spotted she could not have outrun them. All the same, pirates have been consistently reluctant to attempt to board ships which exhibit an alert crew and it would have given more time to send an alert for assistance. With that extra time, forces like those of the US Navy coul;d possibly have intervened earlier and more effectively.

Once the master realised the ship had been boarded he set of the ship’s Ship Security Alert System. SSAS. He believed it had worked, but no signal was sent. He wasn’t familiar with the system operation and its unclear what went wrong. The system had been successfully tested the previous March, and was found working after the ship’s release in August.

The SSAS system is activated from the bridge and at least one other place within the ship, and every crewmember should know where and how it is activated. Two of the crew locked themselves in the engine room but didn’t think about activating the SSAS and one of them didn’t even know where it was.

So it was that the situation wasn’t known until the next day when an American warship queried the shipping company whether the Danica White was actually supposed to be heading for Mogadishu. Getting a negative, it set off in pursuit but called it off after sinking the three pirate boats because the Danica White had entered Somali waters.

Piracy isn’t going to go away anytime this century so when near pirate waters keep a lookout, especially at the pirate’s favourite boarding point, the stern. If unknown vessels approach or behave suspiciously get the crew on deck, show they’re alert, lay out high pressure hoses, and alert the appropriate folk, including the IMB’s piracy centre immediately. Make sure every member of crew, including you, knows how and where to activate the SSAS and when and activate it when necessary – you’ll have time to cancel it if it proves to be a false alarm.

You can read the Danica White report, in English and Danish, here.

Maritime Safety News Today – 12th December 2007

December 12, 2007

Maritime Global Net – Warren,RI,USA
“This is a totally unacceptable situation,” said Captain Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the ICC International Maritime Bureau which runs the Piracy 

Pirates off Somalia threaten to kill tanker crew: UN
But Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers‘ Assistance Programme, said the presence of the US vessels was complicating the negotiations

Sinking kills migrants off Turkey – Qatar
The group met in Izmir on Saturday evening and were taken to the coast, where they boarded the boat at night but the vessel capsized two hours after setting

Crews will try to bring listing cargo ship to port

Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, July 31, 2006

A team of salvage experts boarded the listing cargo ship the MV Cougar Ace on Sunday to determine the best way to right it and bring it to port.

Total tanker in Gulf of Aden collision, no pollution
Guardian Unlimited – UK
“After steering southeast at low speed, the Samco Europe is currently stabilised away from traffic in this area and is waiting for the vessel’s owner and .


Thai, Cambodian fishermen rescued in Vietnamese waters
Mathaba.Net – London,UK
Seafarers from the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang on December 6 rescued three foreign fishermen after their vessel sank off the province’s coast.


Tanker breaks down
Worthing Herald – Worthing,England,UK
its anchor down while repairs were taking place. The crew of the Eastbourne RNLI all-weather lifeboat has been put on standby in case they are required.

Legal fears left Atlantic Conveyor defenceless

A helicopter-carrying merchant ship that sank with the loss of 12 men after being hit by two Exocet missiles in the 1982 Falklands conflict was unarmed and unprotected because Ministry of Defence lawyers feared that it was illegal to fit a commercial vessel with weapon systems, according to newly released classified documents.

The container ship Atlantic Conveyor, which had sailed to the South Atlantic just six days after being requisitioned by the MoD, was struck on May 25, causing devastating fires and explosions on board – a storage section filled with cluster bombs and kerosene blew up.

It was one of the biggest-impact attacks by Argentine Exocet-armed Super Etendard bombers because the Atlantic Conveyor was carrying four Chinook and seven Wessex helicopters, all of which would have played a crucial role in ferrying British troops across the Falklands as part of the campaign to liberate the islands.

The Argentinians were hoping to target one of the two Royal Navy aircraft carriers but the missiles homed in on the 14,950-tonne merchant ship.


Port State Control *updates* 11 Dec 2007

► 11th December 2007: Following text approval at MSC 83, the IMO have issued a “Code of good practice for port State control officers”.

This document provides guidelines regarding the standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency that regional port State control (PSC) regimes expect of all port State control officers (PSCOs) who are involved in or associated with port State control inspections.

Ballast water convention: Worldwide *updates*

11th December 2007: IMO – Enforcement of the first deadline for the fitting of ballast water treatment facilities on new build ships under the forthcoming Ballast Water Management Convention has been postponed by the IMO.

Delays with ratification of the convention, and the type approval of treatment equipment are thought to have contributed to the decision by the IMO to delay the enforcement of Regulation B-3Ballast Water Management for Ships.

Shipowners will not be required to have systems installed on vessels constructed during 2009  with a ballast capacity of less than 5,000 cubic metres until the second annual survey, but before January 2012.

The assembly has requested the Marine Environmental Protection Committee to review, and possibly extend this postponement to ships built during 2010 as well if it believes there is not the “immediate availability of type approved technology” when it meets in October next year.

Maritime Safety News Today – 1 December 2007

December 2, 2007

Communication Lost With Hijacked Ship

Communication was lost with MV Al Marjan, which was hijacked by Somali pirate on October 17.

Coast Guard assists damaged freighter

BOSTON – The Coast Guard is assisting a damaged freight vessel today about 150 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Mass., after the vessel’s master requested permission to enter Boston to repair damage sustained during a storm.

Coast Guard Sector Boston received the call around 5 p.m., Wednesday, from the vessel RSCL Express, a 350-foot vessel registered in the Pacific Marshall Islands.  The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable, a 210-foot cutter from Cape May, N.J., on a routine patrol in the area was diverted and headed toward the vessel’s location.

Man and son rescued from sinking ship
San Francisco Chronicle – CA, USA
Responding authorities found the ship’s captain, Leo Morelli, on his vessel, the Lou Denny Wayne, not far from shore. Morelli was rescued by helicopter.

Fishing vessel crashes into rocks at Pigeon Point in San Mateo County
San Jose Mercury News – CA, USA
The collision caused the vessel, which was carrying an estimated 600 gallons of diesel fuel, to sink. Hunter said responding personnel did not see oil in

Vessel Operator Sentenced to Pay $525,000 for Environmental Crime

WASHINGTON – A federal district court in Maine sentenced Petraia Maritime Ltd., late yesterday, to pay a fine of $525,000 and serve two years probation for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution From Ships (APPS), the Justice Department announced.

Petraia had been convicted following a jury trial in May 2007 of failing to maintain a record of its overboard discharges of oily bilge waste, which it made without using required pollution control equipment, from the M/V Kent Navigator, a vessel that it owned and operated. Two chief engineers serving aboard the Kent Navigator had previously pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Coast Guard for their role in the attempted cover-up of Petraia Maritime’s discharges of oily waste.


HALIFAX — The Government of Canada laid pollution related charges in Halifax Provincial Court today against the M/V Alida Gorthon. The vessel faces two charges under the Canada Shipping Act related to the unlawful discharge of a pollutant and failure to report the discharge of a pollutant. The charges relate to a pollution incident which took place June 22nd 2007 in which an oil slick of less than 50 litres was spotted in the wake of a vessel transiting Canadian territorial waters approximately 200 kilometres south of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

SF ship pilots group reviewing practices after Bay fuel spill
San Jose Mercury News – CA, USA
The group says other possibilities include restricting vessel movement in difficult maneuvering areas when there’s heavy fog.

Liberia Mounts Explorer Investigation

THE Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry, the US-based manager of the Liberian Registry, confirms start of investigation into the incident which led to passengers being evacuated from the passenger vessel Explorer.

Update on Black Sea Oil Spill

Approximately 17,500 tons of oil product waste has been collected; environmental damage has been estimated at $265 million.

2007 Inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea

The inaugural IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea has been presented to two seafarers who risked their lives to save others in a dramatic rescue operation in gale-force winds.

Bulgaria Gets New Brussels Warning over Seafarers
Sofia News Agency – Bulgaria
Bulgaria: Bulgaria is set to receive a new warning from Brussels after failing to transpose the rules on seafarers mobility and crew skills into their

INTERTANKO Hosts Successful Seafarers Vetting Seminar Philippines

Over one thousand seafaring officers attended INTERTANKO’s first ever Seafarers’ Vetting Seminar.
Dockside power for ships examined
Charleston Post Courier – Charleston,SC,USA
While “grounding” and “earthing” essentially are the same process, they may have a different meaning in Japan than in Sweden. An ISO standard must be just

Articles of Note

November 16, 2007

Responding to Piracy and Other African Maritime Security Challenges, J. Peter Pham:

While most of the battles, both political and military, in the ongoing Somali conflict have been on land, recent events have highlighted that the instability emanating from the failed state is not without its maritime dimension:

Weekly Piracy Report

September 25, 2007

The International Maritime Bureau has issued the following weekly report

Recently reported incidents

14.09.2007: 0330 UTC: 06:18N – 003:22E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
Deck crew onboard a tanker carrying out STS operations noticed two small boats in the vicinity. Suddenly one of the boats with three persons on board approached the ship. The OOW was informed, alarm raised and crew mustered. Robbers noticed the alert crew and aborted the attempt.
14.09.2007: 0216 LT: 0616.5N – 003:21.3E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria.
The deck watchman on an anchored tanker noticed a fast boat, with 3-4 robbers, approaching from astern.  One robber was seen holding a pole with a hook attached to it. The OOW was informed, alarm raised, crew mustered and port control informed. On hearing the alarm, the robbers aborted the attempt.
23.09.2007: Kutubdia anchorage, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Whilst carrying out anti piracy rounds, on a bulk carrier at anchor, ship’s crew found forecastle store, door, lock broken and ships stores missing. Even though there were a number of shore personal working onboard the robbers went unnoticed.
22.09.2007: 1950 LT: off Palembang, Indonesia.
Several pirates hijacked a tanker, enroute to Cilacap from Palembang, with a cargo of Palm Olien. The master reported to TG. Buyut pilot station and they informed the tanker’s managers. IMB piracy reporting centre has alerted the authorities to look out for the tanker.
20.09.2007:  1715 LT: 110 NM West of Berbera, Somalia.
Pirates hijacked a fishing vessel and anchored it near the village of Raas Shula
All crew including the four Somali security guards have been taken out from the ship.
19.09.2007 : 0430 UTC: 01:33.6N – 051:41.5E: Somalia.
A blue-hulled suspicious vessel with white superstructure with two masts was drifting at a distance of 11.5nm from a bulk carrier.  Ship altered course to stay away from suspicious vessel. The suspicious vessel altered course, and speed a number of times. The bulk carrier continued to plot the suspicious vessel until finally past and clear.
Note: In this case, the IMB notes the movements of the suspicious vessel to be quite similar to those of fishing vessel.
17.09.2007: 0250 UTC: 02:27.1N – 051:56.0E, Somalia.
A bulk carrier underway sighted a vessel drifting on her port bow at a range of 12 nm.  The boat suddenly increased speed and moved towards the ship.  The ship took evasive action and increased speed to keep away from the suspicious craft. Due to ship’s higher speed, the suspicious boat moved away.
An hour later, another suspicious boat was sighted on the stbd bow; the ship took evasive action to keep away from the boat.  Due to ship’s higher speed, the boat was left behind.  Ship continued her passage.
11.09.2007: 2300 LT: vicinity of Ferguson Island, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.
The captain of a workboat, transporting workers and cargo, jumped overboard when pirates boarded his vessel. The pirates robbed the crew and injured them with sharp objects. Later the crew received medical treatment at a shore hospital.  A search party was sent to locate the captain but he could not be found.
09.09.2007: 1145 LT: Posn 01:54.1N – 106:31.49E, 48 NM of Pulau Repong, South China Sea.
Two speedboats, with an unknown number of few men and believed to be armed, were trailing a yacht underway.  Suspicious of their intention, the yacht broadcast the incident via vhf radio.  A passing by container ship relayed the message to Singapore port authorities.  The Singapore port authorities relayed the message to MRCC Jakarta and broadcast a navigational warning via the Navtex and safety net system. The attempted attack was aborted.
18.08.2007: 0750 LT: 05:22.58N – 078:78.9E, 78 NM from coast, Sri Lanka.
Several fishing vessels chased and attempted to board a yacht while enroute from Maldives to Malaysia. The yacht managed to evade the attempted attack.
26.07.2007: 0730 LT: 40 NM west of Anambas islands, South China Sea.
A Chinese fishing vessel while underway was approached by a small rubber boat. Five pirates armed with guns opened fire at the fishing vessel and attempted to board.  The fishing vessel increased speed and managed to escape.  Bullets penetrated the bridge hull and damaged glass. No one was injured.  The fishermen reported to authorities in china, Singapore and Malaysia.