Mar 082010

An Tai Jiang - A killer ship of shame

She would have been on anyone’s ship of shame: Safety alarms that did not work, fire-fighting equipment that did not operate, lifeboat engines that could not start, seafarers not trained to use equipment that would keep them alive and a leadership that lost the plot in an emergency. Her name was An Tai Jiang and, in relatively forceful language Hong Kong’s Marine Department, in its report on a January 2009 engine room fire, says that she was a substandard ship that should not have been entered in its registry.

An Tai Jiang, an ashphalt carrier, was flagged in Hong Kong.


Safety First: Words not deeds

To cut to the chase, a sensor that would have warned of a potential crankcase explosion was not working. The inevitable explosion led to a fire. Two seafarers, the third engineer and a motorman, in the engine room were unaware of the fire because fire alarms did not work. By the time they were aware of the fire it was too late to evacuate the engine room with the use of Emergency Evacuation Breathing Devices.

They had EEBDs available. They did not know how to use them. They died.

From there things, incredibly, got worse. The fire spread because procedures were not followed. Says the Mardep report: “In the fire incident, the firefighting and rescue operations were not coordinated and (sic) executed properly by the crew of Vessel. The Chief Engineer did not take responsibilities (sic) to lead the firefighting team. There was no rescue team organized to rescue the missing engine room crew members before the release of carbon dioxide gas into engine room. There was also evidence that crew members had inadequate training in handling emergency situations. The crew admitted that fire drills had not been carried out for several months.”

The remote control quick-closing valves for shutting off the fuel oil supply to diesel
generators malfunctioned and the valves could not be closed. A diesel generator in the engine roomkept on running until the rescue team from the salvage tugs came on board to shut it down locally at the valve in the engine room with the assistance of the Chief Engineer. “It was probable that the engine room had not been sealed properly with fresh air entering the engine room to support the diesel generator.

T”he emergency fire pump ran less than an hour and malfunctioned. It was evident that the pump had not been maintained properly.

And it gets worse. Neither of the ship’s lifeboat engine were working. The starboard lifeboat was launched without the master’s orders.

The crew of Vessel admitted that false entries had been made in the deck logbook stating that drills had been done in time and satisfactorily.

At the time there were gales and moderately high seas. When the master found the lifeboat had been launched he ordered the evacuated crew back on board the vessel Several refused. Among those who did try to reboard the vessel two fell from manropes, one of whom was, and remains, lost.

The Mardep report comments: “… the Vessel was basically a substandard ship and such kind of ship should not be tolerated in the Hong Kong Ship Register. The Shipping Division should consider enhancing its measures to identify substandard ships more effectively.”

This was more than mere a lack of safety culture, it was a complete disregard of seafarers’ lives at every level.

Read the full report here:

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