Gard Norway’s attempts to secure compensation from the Norwegian government for sinking of the stone-carrier Rocknes with loss of 18 lives have been refused by Oslo District court of appeal. Gard, togther with a dozen insurance companies and the vessel’s owner, held that the Norwegian government, through its mapping agency, bore responsibility for the tragedy, and subsequent oil pollution, because a hazard had not been identified on the Norwegian charts in use.
A statement by the mapping agency says: “A district court first ordered the State of Norway (i.e. the Norwegian Coastal Administration and the Norwegian Hydrographic Service) to pay close to NOK 23 million in damages for having failed to include the shoal which the bulk carrier hit, in the Notices to Mariners published by the Norwegian Hydrographic Service.
“The reason for not publishing the shoal of 9.4 meter was that it was within the 10 meter depth curve. This verdict has now been overturned by the court of appeal.
“According to the court of appeal, the accident was most likely caused by navigational error by the ship’s crew. To sail a ship the size of Rocknes through this narrow passage is demanding under normal conditions. Poor visibility, strong currents and stability problems made for an even more demanding situation and therefore required very thorough planning.
“The court of appeal clearly states that the responsibility for safe navigation always lies with the ship’s captain and navigator, and not with the mapping agency…”
In brief, mariner’s should not rely on the accuracy of a chart.