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Precis File
source Japan FSA
type A
dead 0

No 2 hold flooded and broken up. Iron ore loaded.

source Woinin
type D
dead 0

1972 May. Delivery of the 101,700 dwt OBO "ARIADNE" in Sweden at the "AB Götaverken-Arendal" shipyard, hull no.854.

1976. The ship is sold to "Utah Transport Inc.", Monrovia, Liberia and renamed "LAKE BERRYESSA".

1979. Don Henderson writes the song "The Lake Berryessa" following a protest by the Seamen's Union of Australia about the low and delayed pay of the Spanish crew.

1982. The ship is renamed "COAL TRANSPORTER"

1984. Sold to "Marconna Corporation" of Monrovia - Liberia, and renamed "TRANSPORTER".

1985. Sold to "Panther Shipping Corporation", Manila-Philippines, renamed "RANGER".

1986. Sold to "Joscar Shipping Co. Inc." Manila-Philippines.

1987. Sold to "KS Finans-Invest VI AS Konsortie IV", Oslo Norway. The vessel flying the Norwegian second register (NIS). Renamed "NORMAN SIBOSS"

1989. Sold to "KS Combi Sabrina" Oslo-Norway, renamed "COMBI SABRINA" Last special survey by DNV, thickness measurement of frame taken only in fore peak, frames replaced in hold 2 and 8.

1990. Transfered to "Combi Sabrina II c/o Finanshuset Prosjekt AS", Oslo-Norway. In October, more buckled frames found by DNV, which ordered a close-up survey.

1991. January. Close up survey taking place. In February, the ship was sold to Lone Eagle, who reclassed it from DNV to the Hellenic Register (HRS). The vessel is renamed "ALPHA STAR" Initial survey by HRS found no new structural damage. Hold 2, 5 and 8 were not inspected.

1992. Annual survey by HRS in March, 3 holds surveyed and found in good condition, again no survey of holds 2, 5 and 8.

1993, February.. February, annual survey by HRS of holds 1, 2 and 5, found in good condition, no repair needed.

1993, October Crack found in hold 1, repaired by riding crew of 4 welders, class not advised. Also in October CESAM conducted survey for insurer, 4 holds were visited; but were loaded with soy beans so that only the upper part could be seen and was found rusted. At the same time, HRS conducted year of grace survey in Amsterdam. Top sides tanks 1 to 5 inspected and found satisfactory except no.4 where some thinning was discovered and recommended to be repaired in October 1994. No indication that the holds were checked. The special survey was postponed to October 1994.

1993 NOV 10. Ship H and M insured by "All American Marine Slip" (AAMS) for a premium of $294000 (CTL value $5m) . AAMS require the ship to change class from HRS latest by February 1994.

1993 NOV 17. Vessel arrives Dunkirk with a crack in double bottom 1 allowing about 20 tons of water per day to enter tank. HRS not notified.

1993 NOV 26. "DOVER AGENCY and BROKERAGE" send a telex describing the Canadian Port Authorities as "very strict" and "prejudiced".

1993 NOV 29. "DOVER AGENCY and BROKERAGE" send the following telex to the master: Nobody has the right to inspect areas to his discretion and without Master's approval. Master should not permit entrance of anybody in areas which he don't(sic) approve. Master should also have to arrange(sic) prohibit entrance in the areas he feels necessary by making random access impossible (e.g. by ballasting, or other technical undertakings). If any inspection is to be conducted by authorities then the inspector must be continuously followed by ship's officer who if(sic) fully aware of above.

1993 DEC 7. Crack in DB1 found during inspection of hold in Port Cartier. PSC called and found several cracks on deck and detained the ship.

1993 DEC 8 and 9. Another survey carried out by the HRS after the PSC findings. More cracks were found and were mostly stopped by arresting holes and some welding. All repairs done by riding crew approved by HRS, one of them accepted as permanent. Apparently no check of side shell framing by HRS or PSC.

1993 DEC 11. The Alpha Star leaves Port Cartier in Canada with 99.046 tons of iron ore for Fos. Holds 2, 4 and 8 are empty. Crack in DB1 repaired by riding crew.

1993 DEC 16 - 18. Chief mate discovers four cracks in port shell framing of hold 2, 10 more frames buckled and detached from shell. Water entered the hold through the cracks and filled the space on a height of 10cm. Master informs the owners, but they do not contact the HRS.

1993 DEC 20 -22. Emergency inspection of all holds, buckled and detached frames in all of them except hold 4. Owners arrange for more superintendents and more welders to board near Gibraltar. but vessel did not enter port area to avoid possibility of PSC inspection. HRS not called for survey of damages.

1993 DEC 23. Chief mate found that crack in hold 2 has grown by 12 cm.

1993 DEC 23 0130 Wind force 8, wave 5 meters.

1993 DEC 23 1200. Inspection of holds 2, 5 and 8. Breaking and cracking noise heard in holds 5 and 8, 3 meter water in hold 2 and some water in hold 8.

1993 DEC 26 1450 UTC. SOS sent in position 41.36N 5.59E (About 100 miles south of Toulon): Heavy leak in hold. Afraid vessel will not hold. Urgently require helicopter to pick up crew. The wind was blowing force 9/10, or strong gale to storm, from the coast in the North West, but the master recorded in the log book force 11/12.

1993 DEC 26 1840 UTC. The 42 crewmembers have been picked up by French helicopters, the ship is drifting toward Sardinia.

1993 DEC 28. Some crew put back on board. Ship under tow of tug MERAU.

1993 DEC 31 evening. Ship arrives in Fos anchorage. Found holds number 2 and 8 flooded, with two holes in the side shell of hold 2, one 3 x 4 m, the other 4 x 6, ship holding on double bottom. The door of the forecastle was found open together with an unbolted and removed manhole cover. The forecastle was flooded. From some material found on deck it could be seen that the deck has never been submerged during the bad weather that triggered the call for rescue.

Due to the holes in hold number 2, water entered and retreated from that hold making the hatch covers to breath and lift heavily. The surveyors told the owner's representatives and the crew members to open the hatch covers in order to ease the pressure and prevent damage, but no action was taken.

1994 JAN 4. The advice about opening the hatch covers of hold 2 was repeated, again without result.

1994 JAN 5. Crew removed again by helicopter due to deteriorating weather situation and risk of sinking.

1994 JAN 7. French Navy cut anchor chain and towed ship 50 miles offshore to prevent it sinking near harbour. An inspection by the Hellenic Register found damages in all holds except number 4. The hatch cover of hold 2 has collapsed, the fore part of the vessel is bent relative to the after part.

1994 JAN 12. Ship brought back to Fos anchorage by SMIT tug. On boarding the bulker, they discovered that several manholes of top tanks had been left open with 6 tanks filled with water. This, together with the open forecastle, can favour the assumption that some wanted the ship to sink at sea, preventing any further examination of state of the vessel.

1994 JAN 27. Start discharging cargo in the port of Fos.

1994 APR 12. Arrival of the ALPHA STAR at Alang for demolition. It had been sold to ship breakers for $3,009,810.

1994 APR 14. LONE EAGLE present a claim for Constructive Total Loss (CTL) due to heavy weather, estimated value $8,595,958.

1994 MAY 06. AAMS rejects the claim for CT.L Continental Inc.Co and affiliated parties filed action against owners.

In 1996, the Court found in favor of the insurers accepting their claim that the ship was in unseaworthy condition when it left Gibraltar, and the owners knew it.

source CTX
type C
dead 10

We are deeply indebted to Captain Woinin for the enthralling and disgusting history of the Alpha Star. Anyone interested in bulk carrier safety should read the full original. Woinin points out that the owners had a strong interest in the ship sinking, since the insured value was more than double the scrap value, and a sinking would prevent full investingation of the condition of the ship. Woinin points out that the Court decision is very unusual. Almost always Courts favor the owners in cases like these.

This is one of the very few dry bulk casualties for which we have real information. The ship has to survive; there must be a court case that is not settled out of court, and we must have a diligent investigator interested in the real truth.

Unfortunately, we almost never have all three. Normally, we have only a nearly useless, one or two line summary, such as that in the Japanese FSA. But that does not mean that the Alpha Star is atypical. In fact, the CTX is convinced that the condition of the Alpha Star and the owner mentality which leads to this condition is representative of a sizable portion of bulk ship owners. Moreover the failure of Class and the flag state to do anything about it is not only typical, but inherent in a system in which the owner can change regulators whenever he feels like it.