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SHIP MASTER RECOUNT MIGRANTS RESCUE

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A Campbell Shipping fleet ship recently plucked to safety three fishermen who were stranded on their capsized vessel in South Africa.

It is the type of rescue that commercial ships routinely carry out, and the obligation for which is written into maritime regulations.

But on 22 October 2014, Campbell’s Handysize dry bulk carrier, CS Caprice, undertook a very different kind of rescue. At 13.52, the vessel received a call from the Maritime Rescue Centre in Malta requesting it divert immediately and to go the aid of a boat in distress that was carrying 300 to 400 people.

In fact, aboard the stricken vessel were 510 men, women, children, babies, and elderly from Syria, Libya, and the African continent; by contrast, there were just 20 crew members on board CS Caprice, which was led by Captain Joshua Perris Bhatt.

Putting in a call to the company, Capt Bhatt received the following guidance from Campbell Shipping’s designated person ashore, Captain Rajesh Dhadwal: “Inspire your crew to do this.”

Speaking to IHS Maritime, Capt Dhadwal said that while the crew had reservations and concerns, large-scale rescues cannot be done with a utilitarian mindset.

“The human spirit has to lift itself to another level. You cannot attempt this scale of operation if you are thinking about compensation or ‘what if the migrants have Ebola?’ or ‘what if there are terrorists among them and they take over the ship?’ You have to put aside the ‘what ifs’,” he explained, adding that quickly deteriorating weather conditions meant the crew had just “a matter of hours” to assist hundreds of ordinary people up a 6 m freeboard.

“Compare this to the amount of time it takes to board a plane,” he said, describing the challenge they faced.

In the event, the rescue was successful. “Not a single life was lost,” said Capt Dhadwal, and several medical emergencies were successfully attended to, including one critically ill female passenger. The crew kept her alive via the ship’s medical oxygen supply until the Italian coastguard airlifted her to hospital. It is thought to be the largest rescue operation by a single commercial ship in the Mediterranean Sea to date.

But the toll on the crew and the ship’s schedule was exceptional. This was not the more usual three- to four-hour rescue; it lasted nearly three days.

Unable to disembark at one port due to inclement weather, the ship carrying 510 distressed migrants was requested to move to another.

“Our schedule was delayed by four days, and the crew was working with the passengers continuously,” said Capt Dhadwal, who added that the charterers refused to pay for the days off-hire or the bunkers. The shipping company was also penalised by its insurer following a successful claim for the clean-up of the ship.

“We got the claims back, but it came as a deductible and was mentioned in our claim record. We asked them: ‘how can you put this on our claim record and penalise us for doing the right thing?'” Capt Dhadwal said. However, he said the insurer is looking positively on the matter and he is hopeful the decision will be reversed.

The rescue operation depleted the ship’s resources. “Every bed sheet, towel, blanket, every single grain on that ship was used. It had stock for 20 people for a month, not 510 people for three days,” the captain said.

But the key reason for the insurance claim was the post-rescue ship clean-up effort, which had left it a hazardous mess. “We had to get the ship cleaned, fumigated,” he said. “It was full of garbage. All the towels had to be removed, new bedsheets were needed, plus there was vomit, urine, and we needed to get medical checks for the crew.”

The ship also had to claim for the cost of calling at more than one port and for the pilotage.

Despite the inconvenience, financial loss, and very real health and safety risks, Capt Dhadwal said ships should continue in their role as rescuers because they have a “global reach” that coastguards do not have.

But shipping needs support, Capt Dhadwal said, in the form of both “diplomatic arrangements” on where migrants should be taken once rescued and official naval leadership during rescue operations.

Currently, ship crews can be left in the dark as to where rescued refugees will be disembarked, which puts the vessel at both legal and physical risk.

“When we picked up that group of 510 people, we did not know where we would be able to take them; we did not know how long they would be with us,” he said, explaining that this put the ship and the company at two major risks: the boat refused to be rescued unless the destination was Italy, and yet the ship was under a legal obligation to carry out the rescue; and second, the passengers could mutiny if the ship headed to the ‘wrong’ port.

To cover themselves legally, Capt Dhadwal ordered Capt Bhatt to record the ship’s request to the migrant boat to come alongside to be rescued. Meanwhile, Capt Dhadwal rapidly pursued port options with MRCC Malta.

“We need clear guidelines explaining: in the Mediterranean Sea, within these boundaries, migrants should be taken to so and so place, or reported to so and so. These guidelines have to be in place,” Capt Dhadwal stressed. He added that leadership guidelines during rescue operations should also be in place.

“A typical marine rescue will have a chain of command, with a leader and an on-scene commander, which should be the NATO forces or the coastguard,” explained Capt Dhadwal, adding that other entities also then come in to assist other aspects of the rescue. He said that rescue centres should contact NATO or coastguard forces first, which would then co-ordinate the operation, including contacting the merchant ship called on to assist.

Right now, however, ships are on their own. “Commercial shipping is taking the full brunt, the full impact of rescue operations,” Capt Dhadwal said.

He said that brave crews will rise to the challenge, and for this particular operation, the crew was officially recognised with a humanitarian award at the Connecticut Maritime Association’s 2015 conference.

But this does not ameliorate the very real dangers they face, Capt Dhadwal said, adding that he considers terrorism a very real threat. “ISIS has said it might use this as a channel to export terrorism,” he said. “This is a real threat and it becomes so real when you start talking about gas tankers where, if people took over the ship, you would be facing an environmental disaster.”

Describing the dilemma as “massive”, he continued: “When you are in the middle of the sea, with so many people with no papers, how can you stand off and not help them, thinking of all the various secnarios? If they die and they were not criminals or terrorists, then who is liable for their deaths?”

Campbell Shipping still plies the Mediterranean routes, and the crew undergo training and drills for man overboard, but not yet for large-scale operations. “We are considering this given the numerous cases lately,” Capt Dhadwal said.

The video taken by CS Caprice crew can be viewed here: Rescue of Migrants at Sea: The CS Caprice Story

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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