Paris MOU’s Caught in the Net is possibly the nearest thing to a maritime Stephen King story, tales of shipowners who should not be entrusted with a secondhand rubber duck let alone with responsibility for a ship and the lives of its crew. Such a one is Mr. Gerard Antoine of Vesta Shipping Lines which owned the Bolivian-flagged tug Craig Trans which arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia on 18 December 2012, with engine and generator problems, during a voyage from the Panama Canal to Montreal, Canada.
When Craig Trans arrived, the pilot noticed that the port anchor was missing. As the master wanted to anchor in Halifax harbour, the pilot asked how much chain was on the Starboard anchor. The Master told him that there was 40 metres of chain, which the pilot believed was not enough for the depth in the anchorage, as the weather forecast was for 50 Knots wind that night. The pilot arranged for a berth at Pier 26.
The crew of Craig Trans then went to the Mission to Seafarers and asked for food, as they had not eaten for three days. The Mission gave them food.
Port State Control Halifax was informed of the problems with Craig Trans, and three PSCOs visited the vessel. On arrival, the crew explained that the drinking water was heavily contaminated with rust, and that they had run out of food three days previously. Further, their wages had not been paid by the vessel’s owner, Mr. Gerard Antoine. The vessel’s Statutory Certificates were incorrect for an international voyage, and some of them had expired before the commencement of the voyage. The master and officers did not have flag state endorsements on their certificates of competency.
A look around the ship revealed that The the top of the wheelhouse was patched with cement to prevent water leaking through the holes onto the navigational equipment. The MF radio aerial was held onto the rail by rope.
The collision bulkhead was perforated by rust holes. Watertight closings did not work, or had defective seals.
Meanwhile, the PSCO Engineer entered the engine room, and asked the chief engineer to start the two main engines, and the generators. Only the Starboard generator was operable.
When the main engines started, a heavy oil mist belched from the crankcase breather pipes, and the oil began to run down the deck, where the rain took it into the scuppers. The Harbour Master was called to install an oil-boom around the vessel, and also provide a gangway, since “Craig Trans” did not have a gangway.
When the PSCO opened the engine room escape hatch the hinges broke off due to heavy corrosion. Once the hatch cover was removed, an electrical cable was seen coming up from the engine room switchboard, down on to the forecastle, down into the Starboard spurling pipe, into the chain locker, and up through a hole cut into the forecastle deck, where it was clipped to the windlass motor.
The engine room was heavily polluted with leaked oil and leaked cooling water. As the propeller shaft rotated,it was throwing oil/water mixture over the switchgear of the one functioning generator. Subsequently 30,000 litres of oily slops were removed from the vessel by the Port of Halifax.
The chief engineer had to clean the fuel filters in gasoline as there were no spares on board. This was a severe
Life rafts were overdue for servicing before the voyage commenced and the Rescue Boat showed signs of neglect. There was insufficient food for the intended voyage.
There were “clear grounds” to detain Craig Trans – 53 serious deficiencies had been recorded.
The owner was informed immediately, but did not arrive for four days. When he arrived, the crew were in the Mission to Seafarers. The owner immediately began verbally abusing the crew, for whom he had not provided food, clean drinking water, tools, spare parts, or wages; he was evicted from the Mission on a 911 call.
Shortly after, the Owner disappeared, and was never seen again. In order to repatriate the crew to Central America, the Mission to Seafarers invited television and radio stations to interview the crew.
When the story was televised, the citizens of Halifax began to arrive at the Mission with money and Air Miles to get the crew
repatriated. The ship’s agent, Atship Services Ltd., who were never paid by the owner, challenged their competitor agencies to establish a Trust Fund to pay for the education of the crew’s children, and a large amount of money was raised. Thanks to the good co-operation of Transport Canada Marine Safety Port State Control, the Mission to Seafarers, Atship Services Ltd., and the citizens of Halifax, a happy result was obtained.
Craig Trans was sold at auction to a scrap-metal dealer.