Oct 162009

imageThis ship of shame, the Panama-flagged bulker Zeus 1, owned by Falcon Shipping Inc, can hardly be described as a rust bucket, her keel was laid as recently as 2007, but she was, and perhaps still is, a death trap for the seafarers working on her.

She was detained for 15 days by Maritime New Zealand due to a long list of frightening shortfalls that would have doomed those aboard her in an emergency.

What sort of emergency? With significant contamination in the galley exhaust trunking creating a risk of fire, perhaps assisted by a busted fuel oil quick closing valve, let’s look at that first. The official record says ‘Demonstrated fire drills not to the required standard”. Hardly surprising since manufacturer’s stickers were still on the facemasks, suggesting that fire drills were few and far between.

A fire, or a rescue from an enclosed space, will usually involve using SCBA, which means air bottles that actually fit the equipment. On Zeus 1 the spare SCBA bottles did not fit the equipment.

imageSo, the fire is now out of control, the GMDSS has failed because there was no emergency power for it, and it’s time to abandon ship. “Demonstrated abandon ship drill not to required standard,” says the Maritime New Zealand report. Perhaps there wasn’t much need for an effective abandon ship drill anyway because the freefall lifeboat wasn’t available for immediate deployment, it was still attached to its lifting bridle.

Maybe that doesn’t matter too much because the crew had not been trained to board the lifeboat and get strapped in safely – they wore lifejackets that meant the safety belts could not be used. A manned launch would have resulted, almost certainly, in death or injury.

Ah ha! the liferaft… oh-oh… no arrangement for boarding the forward liferaft.

imageDid we mention the unsanitary conditions onboard?

Communication would have been difficult. The master, chief officer and third officer were “unable to effectively communicate in English for bridge to bridge, bridge to pilot and bridge to shore communications.”

Possibly, this would explain why the ships’ officers apparently could not understand the words “NOT SAFE FOR NAVIGATION” on the photocopied charts they were using.image

Not that they used the charts for much. They didn’t do much in the way of passage planning, in fact none at all for the previous two voyages.

“The execution of navigational practices required by the STCW Code are not being
complied with as evidenced by the number and nature of the deficiencies raised” says Maritime New Zealand with something of an understatement.

Implicitly, “the certificates of competency” of officers and crew were in order, a demonstration of just how little those bits of paper actually mean.

Here’s the Class NK booklet on good maintenance.

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