While a full investigation will take some time to complete, if it ever is completed and released, the sinking of the Harita Bauxite off Cape Bolinao, North West Luzon, Philippines bear many of the familiar signatures of a liquefaction casualty. Her cargo of 47,450mt nickel ore from Indonesia bound for China, the speed of her sinking and the high level of casualties have characterised the loss of several vessels in the same area over the past few years.
The Panama-registered, 1983-built handymax ship sank on the evening of 17 February after suffering engine failure, and heavy rolling in rough weather. Although ten crew were rescued by a passing ship, 14 crew remain unaccounted for. One fatality has been so far reported.
Among the issues will be the cargo survey carried out prior to departure from Indonesia. Corruption, intimidation and inaccurate or false transportable moisture content analysis are far from uncommon in the trade.
For the second time in the past few months an industry organisation has expressed or implied complaints about the length of investigations. The International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners, Intercargo, has called for an early casualty investigation. Recently, although concerning a different tragedy, the International Chamber of Shipping expressed frustration over the delay of a final Italian report into the Costa Concordia incident.
Secretary General of Intercargo, Rob Lomas, says “…the sudden loss of another bulk carrier in this region underlines the importance for the relevant authorities to quickly conduct their accident investigations so that the dry bulk sector can learn and apply any safety-related lessons from this tragedy, and help in future prevent this unnecessary loss of life”.
The next amendment to the IMSBC Code will be formally approved by MSC 92 in May 2013, becoming mandatory from 1 January 2015. Says Intercargo: “The inclusion of several changes to the code requested or supported by Intercargo are included, and revisions concerning the control of moisture content for ‘Group A’ cargoes are particularly welcomed.”