The CLASSIFICATION of a SUNKEN SHIP.
Narrative based on large commented extracts
of the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) report.
On 8 February 1997 the CYPRUS bulk carrier "LEROS STRENGTH" sank 23 miles
off the coast of Norway while en route from Murmansk to Poland.
The vessel was loaded 18,180 tonnes of apatite,
which is classified as a harmless, non-dangerous fertilizer.
The cargo was loaded in cargo holds nos. 1,3 and 5 with holds 2 and 4 empty.
The vessel was built to the extra requirements
of American Bureau of Shipping to enable her to carry cargo in alternate holds.
At 7.50 am the Captain of the LEROS STRENGTH contacted the Rescue Co-ordination Center
in Sola/Stavanger, Norway, requesting immediate assistance. The Captain
reported that the bow was under water up to hold 1. He was unable to steer and
the situation was getting progressively worse.
After approximately 3 minutes, the radio contact was abruptly cut off.
It was later established that the ship had sunk.
Nobody knows if the captain had already ordered to abandon
the vessel, but it is unlikely as no survivors were found, or at least their
bodies if they had already put on their lifejackets.
The first observation is that this type of ship can go down so fast
that no survival craft, even a free fall boat,
can be effectively used to leave the sinking vessel.
The weather was reported as westerly gale / strong gale.
This is hardly bad weather, moreover the seas were coming from abreast or even astern
of it on starboard side, making the ship rolling probably heavily but pitching
was for sure minimal. Furthermore a Lloyd's List article
shows picture of the small container vessel BOA RHINO that picked up the empty
life rafts of the LEROS STRENGTH, and obviously the sea was not very rough as
this small ships was not much affected by it.
The Norwegian subsequently carried out an underwater survey of the wreck,
but it was mostly dug in the mud
and further destroyed by the impact on the bottom
that it did reveal almost nothing.
This part of the report will be fully by passed.
The only clue is:
The sonar photograph has confirmed that one area
of starboard side shell plates is missing i.e. for hold nr.1
This is consistent with the effect of rolling described here above.
But quite instructive in the report is the description of classification and
While sailing under Cyprus flag, the ship's classification society
(first ABS then RINA for the last months) has
been delegated authority to perform all statutory surveys.
Here it must
be noted that in this case the "classification society" does not act
any more as "class", mainly for insurance purposes, but as
"Recognized Organisation (RO)" for a flag state. It is quite a
lucrative business taking into account the proliferation of the Flag of
Conveniences, and while acting so the classes also try to claim the same
immunity of prosecution as the one of the flag states, meaning they can never
been held liable for their mistakes. But this is luckily contested by
various courts, including the French one which ruled on the ERIKA sinking.
The vessel was built as a bulk carrier to the rules and under supervision
of ABS. The following class notations were assigned by ABS: +A1, E, +AMS, Bulk
Carrier "strengthened for the carriage of heavy cargoes, certain holds
maybe empty". The new building was delivered on 21 July 1976.
(by the Japanese shipyard NIPPON KOKAN on Shimizu island
which reports that it is the first one
where framing work for the double bottom was done since 1972 at the
fabrication stage instead of at the assembly stage as before, using recently
developed automatic fabrication arrangements. This equipment had not been used
before in the fabrication of double bottoms for bulk carriers. Although these
tanks were likely not related to the casualty, it shows that the shipyard was
eager to use new techniques in order to be more competitive. Nothing wrong with
that, if at least it does not affect the general quality of the vessel.)
when she was taken over by Lamda Shipping Company Ltd., Lemesos, Cyprus, in
September 1993. During this period and until mid 1996, ABS was responsible for
classification matters. One year after delivery the vessel had some
modifications done to the aft part of the fore peak tank during the guarantee
dry-docking. This was done because sister vessels experienced fractures,
and the modification was reported a success. ... At special survey no 3 some
wastage and thinning of internals were reported, however, nothing that seemed
out of proportion for a 15-year-old vessel.
But in 2006 I have been in the ballast tanks
of a 23 years old bulker built by Mitsubishi in Japan, and
thanks to sound building, proper initial coating, good maintenance and likely
better steel, there was almost no corrosion and for sure no wastage.
It is noted that the Class apparently did not specify the extent of this condition.
However, this Special Survey was prior to the introduction of the Enhanced
Survey Programme, which introduced requirements to positive reporting... After
the Special Survey no 3 it is noted that the vessel was subject to an
accelerated rate of corrosion.
Annual Survey 1992 was commenced 04/92 in Mobile, USA,
and was not completed until 06/92 in Tampico, Mexico.
Several conditions of class were initially issued,
some of which were of rather serious nature.
These related to the main deck plating,
the upper fore peak tank and all topside water ballast tanks.
The Annual Survey was credited in Tampico, but no mention
of any repairs in response to the condition of class concerning accelerated
wastage to the transverse bulkhead between top wing tanks nos. 3 & 4... no
indications that the specific repairs ("renewed as original")
required by the surveyor in Mobile to be done to the high fore peak tank, were
completed prior to crediting this Annual Survey. Furthermore, no repairs seem
to have been done to the wasted and holed internals in way of most of the top
wing tanks. It is also worth noting that the available documentation indicates
that the required thickness readings were not taken.
At the start of this Annual Survey,
the conditions of class related to the upper fore peak tank were
required rectified prior crediting Annual Survey.
However, this recommendation was subsequently overruled by another surveyor
who deferred these repairs to the Intermediate survey.
Although the ship was still classed with ABS,
the mess regarding the required repairs appears to be starting.
The documentation is poor or absent,
maybe on purpose if no repairs were possibly carried out.
It is for sure not easy for different surveyors
to follow the progress of the repairs from one port to another,
and these surveyors have also different standards of thoroughness
when carrying out their job.
Annual & Intermediate Survey 1993 started in Necochea,
Argentina, and wastage was found to new areas such as hatch coamings, hatch
covers and ventilators. The annual survey was completed together with the
Intermediate Survey in Callao, Peru, 09/93. The deficiencies identified at the
beginning of the annual survey were apparently put right (no positive
narrative). Finally, almost 1.5 years after the condition of class regarding
the bulkhead between nos. 3 and 4 top wing tanks and the doublers in the fore
peak tank were put in order - no mention of the other repairs in the fore peak
Annual Survey 1994 window was from 28 February 1994 to 31 August 1994.
The ship was presented for survey in August 1994 barely within the
window, and the attending Rotterdam surveyor withdrew the Full Term Load
Line and Safety Construction certificates
until the vessel undertook satisfactory repairs.
Without these Statutory certificates the ship normally
cannot sail, at least in the countries were they are checked,
and in case of casualty the insurance can refuse to pay,
but in order to keep the ship sailing,
the RO (Class) issues often "Short Term" certificates for a
few months which at least compels the management have the ship surveyed more
The seriousness of the situation is documented in the ABS report in
which expression like "through out topside tanks evidence of excessive
thinning" of various important steel members, and for cargo holds nos. 1,
4 & 5 there were "hold frames found partially detached from shell
plate due to excessive corrosion". As for required class action this was
narrated as "inspection of all cargo holds, thickness gauging and major
repairs are required to the satisfaction of attending surveyor before crediting
Annual Survey hull". The report from Rotterdam is not specific regarding
which parts of the structure that needed "major repairs", but the
accompanying description of deficiencies indicates that such repairs were at
least required for many topside ballast tanks, for some of the frames in the
upper fore peak tank and for some frames in cargo holds no.1, 4 and 5.
Furthermore, the surveyor required close-up inspection of cargo hold no.1 in
Gdansk to establish whether the vessel was "able to proceed to repair port
(Cadiz, Spain) or should be stopped and commence with immediate repairs."
The surveyor in Gdansk issued conditions of class concerning cargo hold no.1
and top wing tanks to be effected prior to completion of Special Survey no.4.
Since some of these conditions of class were of serious nature
and since the Special Survey was approx.1.5 years away,
one may question the soundness of this judgment.
Indeed, when we realize that ship sank likely because of
failure of the side shell in hold no.1.
Annual Survey 1995 was carried out in Piraeus, Greece, in March
1995. It is noted that the partial and total wastage of internals and frames in
the upper fore peak tank as reported in Rotterdam, were still not documented as
put right by the Owner. It is also noted that there is no detailed positive
reporting about repairs to cargo holds nos.1, 4 & 5. However, all cargo
holds were cleaned, descaled by water-jet blasting and painted. Some of the
conditions of class given in Bilbao in September 1994 were further expanded and
again deferred to Special Survey no.4...Detached side shell frames with
evidence of grooving ... reported in Rotterdam 08/94 for holds 1,4 & 5 ...
subsequent class reports are not specific about these important items, and it
is not possible to conclude when, where and whether repairs were temporarily
done by reinforcements by Owner's riding crew.
The use of riding (supplementary) crew is still nowadays popular with some companies.
They put a few more people on board with the necessary equipment
and they try to fix the problems during the trip.
It can work for small repairs, but this method has many shortcomings:
at sea some repairs are difficult when the ship is moving,
for sure way up the sides of a cargo holds; the welders are possibly not
certified; there is no surveyor attending the repair; there is no separate
invoice which can confirm the responsibility of another company... but one
advantage of using those riding crew is that some owners: they can pay they
work fully or partially with black money offering an opportunity for a white
Despite being surveyed as recommended and despite
diminution of side shell frames up to 24pc,
there are no positive records of repair to the cargo holds.
Transfer of Class & Transfer of Class Agreement (TOCA).
On 8 May 1996 the Owners of LEROS STRENGTH requested 3 months extension of the Special
Survey no.4 (20 years), due 31 May 1996, for commercial reasons.
This was refused by ABS due to the many outstanding condition of class.
This resulted in actions by the shipowner
to change classification society for the ship.
And this is the great weakness of the Classification Society system:
they are in competition with each other.
However the IACS societies are at least trying
to control this trend as explained here under.
TOCA was first initiated by IACS in 1986...
and revision no.5, effective from 1 July 1995, was applicable
when the Owners of the LEROS STRENGTH changed its class in June 1996.
Toca is ... an important instrument to ensure that class change can result in a ship
being able to "escape" from recommendation given by the previous
If this competition between classes has somewhat
diminished, there is now an even greater and unfettered competition between
flag states because of the FoC system.
The first part of the surveys related to Class Entry to RINA
was carried out between 14 and 21 June 1996 in Cartagena, Colombia.
After these surveys, the surveyor did not issue an Interim
Certificate of Class and no new statutory certificates but solely a
"Certificate of Technical Fitness" The vessel then sailed from
Cartagena via Barranquilla for unloading and finally to Curaçao for dry-docking
and survey. During this voyage the ship sailed without a valid Load Line
certificate, Pollution Prevention certificate or Safety Construction
In many countries the ship would be immediately detained in
The Final Entry (into RINA class) has never been formalized by RINA.
This is because the vessel sunk before approval by RINA Classification
Committee of the vessel's file. Submission of the file to the Classification
Committee was delayed because, at that time, some of the drawings requested by
TOCA procedure were not yet available at the RINA Head Office.
And this confusion in the documentation contributed to the death twenty men.
It shows that a ship cannot really change Class before all the required work is done,
until then it should remain under the control of the loosing Class, if not for
the usual Class certificates at least for the Statutory ones.
In this case the flag state, Cyprus, should have interfered
with such a poor transfer of Class.
Hull special survey no.4
The Enhanced Survey Programme (ESP) was later adopted by IMO by Resolution A.744(18),
and was made mandatory for bulk carriers
subject to the SOLAS convention from 1 January 1996.
It expands and emphasis the survey requirements
for all periodical Hull Surveys,
i.e. Annual, Intermediate and Special (Renewal) Surveys.
This stricter survey regime requires i.a. positive reporting and traceability,
and was applicable to LEROS STRENGTH
as from the Intermediate Survey when Lamda Sea Shipping Company Ltd.,
took over as new Owners.
As noted earlier, the first part of the surveys related to Class Entry into RINA
was carried out between 14 and 21 June 1996 in Cartagena.
Following these surveys the attending surveyor issued solely a
"Certificate of Technical Fitness",
which has no legal status in relation to IMO conventions.
As far as we are aware, the surveyor neither
advised his Head Office about this actions, nor the Cyprus Flag Administration.
It is not clear from the documentation received whether any repair were carried
out prior to the issue of the "Certificate of Technical Fitness", but
the certificate itself only refers to "general examination of the
hull" and other vital items.
What is sometimes said for statutory certificates "They are not worth
the paper on which they are printed, is certainly true for this document which
is not even such a certificate.
The vessel then sailed from Cartagena via
Barranquila for unloading and finally to Curacao for drydocking and survey,
where the vessel arrived early July. During this voyage the ship thus sailed
without valid statutory certificates they had invalid since 31 May 1996 when
the ship was en route from Bhavnagar, India, to Cartagena. The documentation
received for the repairs and surveys (by RINA) carried out between 13
June in Cartagena and 22 July 1996 in Curacao is not very detailed in all
respects, and some of the information seems contradictory. Furthermore, there
is no clear information neither on the total amount of surveys work involved to
complete these tasks, not on procedures and methods that were used. However,
the survey documentation includes a statement making reference to the
recommendations given by ABS in 3 separate survey reports, which says that
"these recommendations have been dealt with". Nevertheless, from the
available documentation it is difficult to establish with certainty to what
extent (all) previous recommendations were properly dealt with, prior to
issuing new certificates.
This poor documentation from persons and organisations
which have the time and the means to produce extensive texts
must be compared with the precise documentation nowadays required
from the skeleton crews on most merchant ships.
NMD does not have detailed information on the qualification and services
record of the surveyor attending these extensive surveys.
It is noted with concern, however,
that instead of using RINA's exclusive surveyors in the Central America,
a surveyor was sent from Piraeus, Greece, for this survey.
RINA explained that it had not a skilled surveyor in the area.
In relation to the above, we also note with some concern
that on those RINA forms
where the signatures of two persons are required, for the Special Survey no.4
the same person has signed both places;
i.e. both as "The Surveyor" and as "The Head of the Branch Office".
The following comment is given by RINA:
"The same person signed the report twice because he was
both the surveyor and the Head of the Office. i
This particular situation does not impair
the report verification procedure because RINA scheme provides 100%
verification of the survey reports through the fleet services department
located in the Head Office."
NMD notes this explanation, but there is a
significant difference between verification done during a survey compared to
verification done solely of the survey documentation, and at another place a
considerable time after the actual survey. It should also be noted that
according to RINA "The special survey report was received by the Head
Office the day of the foundering and immediately processed"; i.e. the
verification took place more than 6 months after the survey.
The obvious conclusion is that the ship was fully accepted by the Class
after it had sunk!
When the Load Line and Safety Construction certificates were withdrawn in Rotterdam
in August 1944 the surveyor reported
detached frames with grooving effect in cargo holds nos.1,4 & 5 - a
potentially very serious condition. As far as we are aware, there is no class
documentation indicating that these defects were ever corrected prior to
Special Survey, and any possible repairs by Owner's riding crew were not
supervised by the class. Even the Special Survey reports do not positively
confirm that all these deficiencies were corrected.
In cargo hold no.1 there were only 20 measuring points
(Of the thickness measurements) in the 10% - 12.5% diminution
range, one 31.3% and one 33.1%.
According to the reports we have had access to,
only 3 entire frames were renewed,
three lower or upper parts were renewed and eight brackets were renewed
The thickness measurements are often very subjective, often biased toward the
wishes of the party ordering it (as well described in the Tromedy), therefore
they can hardly be trusted to have a good picture of the state of the ship.
When the plate is obviously sound they are not even necessary, and when it is
not, the measurement are rarely taken were strong corrosion or grooving is
Hatch Covers .. thickness readings - as reported - must be considered excellent.
This "evidence" contrasts with reports from sailors referred to in the
Marine Accident Report by Cyprus, who maintain that the covers were causing
continuous problems and constantly under temporary repair.
Furthermore during a Port State Control in Rotterdam 13 August 1996,
i.e. less than one month after the Special Survey,
LEROS STRENGTH was detained for, among other deficiencies,
serious problems with hatch no.3.
It was later established that some of the hatch covers were impossible to repair.
And other crew testimonies refer that a
tarpaulin had to be used on top of the hatch cover no.1.
RINA: it is noted that the Head Office in Genova did not approve the Special Survey
until 10 February 1977, i.e. two days after the foundering and more than 6 months
after completion of the Special Survey.
At the time of the Special Survey there
was no active condition of class related to the fore peak despite several
previous condition of class and obscurity as to when, how and to what extent
repairs were made to the upper fore peak.
However, the RINA surveyor has ticked
off both the upper and lower fore peak as acceptable both for coating and
Classification matters from Special Survey no.4 until foundering
A Port State Control(PSC) less than one month after
a vessel has passed a Special Survey should normally not create any problems
for the vessel.
However, when LEROS STRENGTH was inspected by the PSC in Rotterdam 13 August 1996,
serious defects were discovered in various areas, and
the ship was detained.
In spite of all its shortcomings, the PSC is not commercially oriented
and that is often enough to ensure more realistic inspections than those of the
better trained, equipped and funded class surveyors.
Among the deficiencies giving rise to the detention,
the problems with hatch no.3 were among the most serious.
As agreed with the Flag State, LEROS STRENGTH was
allowed to sail one voyage directly to Piraeus for repair, with maximum time
limit of 15 days. The existing Load Line and Safety Construction
certificates issued at Curacao 22 July 1996 were withdrawn and cancelled by the
Republic of Cyprus.
The report further explains that the pontoons of hatch 3 were such in
bad state that 4 of them had to be replaced, which was severely contrasting
with the thickness measurements adding:
the thickness measurements - which in general are supposed to document the possible
need for repair - in this case may have served as an excuse for not requiring
Itea, Greece, September 1996.
The Condition of Class imposed by the RINA surveyor as a
result of the PSC intervention, were reported as being rectified.
All cargo holds were high pressure water washed but not descaled.
Holds nos. 3, 4 & 5 were completely recoated with Epoxy paint
and holds nos 1& 2 were touched up.
That is only cosmetic maintenance where descaling with sand or hp water was needed,
but it could have revealed serious weaknesses in many structural steel members and plates.
Point Lisas, Trinidad, November 1996.
All certificates issued in Curacao in July 1996
were "Interim" with validity only until 30 November 1996.
These interim certificates were extended by RINA in Trinidad until 30 April 1997, on
the basis of instructions from the RINA Head Office, and a statement from
the Master that he did not know of "any damage of any kind onboard the
vessel affecting class"
Nowadays on such ships the Masters have so little power
and are so economically dependent from their employer
that they are ready to sign almost anything in order to keep their job.
The more recently implemented ISM code
which is supposed to take care of this problem by theoretically
reinforcing the power of the Master, practically totally fails to do so, simply
because the actual staff members are deprived of all hope of any redundancies
in case of unfair dismissal. This is a consequence of the commercial war
between the various Flag States which have to align their crewing policies on
those of the cheapest Flag of Convenience.
Knowledge and theories on the causes of sinking
One can speculate as to how and
where water had ingressed into both the forepeak and cargo holds nos. 1 &
2, and possibly also other tanks in the fore ship.
One possibility would the leakage
through detached areas of shell plating of the forepeak and/or the
shell plating of one or both of the two most forward cargo holds.
I favour this theory also, but strangely,
in spite of similar failures which provoked the severe pollution
incidents with the tankers ERIKA and PRESIGE, and the sinking of many more
large bulkcarriers, the forces acting on the side shell remain poorly studied.
Other possibilities would be leakage through cargo hatches, sounding pipes,
ventilators, etc. It may be argued that leakage through the cargo hatches does
not seem very likely, because the hatch covers must have been visible to the
captain at the time of this telephone conversation. Therefore, if he had seen
damaged or missing hatch covers,
it seems likely that he would have included such information
when describing the situation to the RCC.
Here the report considers that at a later stage,
a higher wave on the nearly submerged fore ship
could have well crashed down the hatch cover
and so precipitate the sinking of the vessel.
The NMD report publish a few recommendations
but fails to address the most important problems
which, if they are not dealt with, will provoke many more casualties.
Generally speaking, many of the problems relate to inadequate reporting.
Has a given item identified as suspect or defective at a previous survey now been repaired
or has it now been completely neglected/overlooked/forgotten?
Taking into effect that the Enhanced Survey Programme (ESP)
was established approximately 8 years ago
and has been frequently improved during this period, it is also
rather surprising that the basic principles ensuring adequate reporting from
surveys are not already fully implemented.
This is true, but the remarks are somewhat naïve
as there are many obscure reasons for not reporting repairs, the main one
being that they were simply not carried out. Six years later the ESP should be
working very well, but the reporting is still succinct, the description of the
state of the ship often is not confirmed by an inspection of the reported
items, on some ships the master is at loss when the ESP documentation is
requested, in some cases it is not even available. The main improvement
regarding reporting came from technology, besides the extensive use of
computer, digital cameras offer an excellent cheap tool to record defective
items by surveyors and the crew.
All survey reports should comply with the following requirements:
include a clear description of which compartments of the ship have been surveyed
It seems quite obvious, but often
it is not done simply because some surveyors inspect only one representative
compartment and assume the others are in the same state. In the eighties, I
have seen several times surveyors from a main IACS class which credited fuel
tanks simply on the assumption that they were not leaking otherwise the ship
would have problems. Not even an air pressure test was carried out.
Nevertheless we had some cracks in these tanks, we managed to control them so
that fuel could reach the upper adjacent compartment, until one day the
convergence of some factors exceeded available man power to handle them, and
one hold filled with container was transformed in a sea of fuel. In some ports,
class surveyors appeared to be somewhat motivated to credit so many items as
possible while the ship stay in port was quite short. Needless to say that he
did not inspect thoroughly all the credited items.
include a clear description of which structural elements
that have been surveyed within each compartment,
and what type of survey ("overall" or "close up" was done.
Nice, it is sometimes done with the help of a picture of the surveyed frame or
plate with its name/location written on it, but this is a huge time consuming
process and again very few items shall be able to be credited during the short
call where the continuous survey must take place. The preparation of such a
survey requires the examination of the ships plans, sometimes also an arduous
exercise on old ships.
include a clear description of the condition of each individual structural element
surveyed, including - when relevant - a clear identification of which items
that require specific types of repair.
Very nice, but who shall pay for the time
needed to carry out these surveys and eventually the delay of the ship?
During the surveys the time needed to discover a single defective item and to document the
findings properly is between 15 and 30 minutes, sometimes more.
Class surveys are already quite expensive, what if their price must increase
"negative reporting only" should be generally banned from survey reporting
Meaning there is not report traceability of the good items, a sound remark.
This is followed by several remarks about the quality of the
reporting and the execution of the repairs, to which we can only agree.
renewed consideration should be given to making SOLAS chapter XII applicable
also for bulkcarriers with length of less than 150m
Correct although this chapter was not yet
applicable to the LEROS STRENGTH.
There can be lot of speculation about why the surveying systems failed and about how they
can be improved, but what is certain is the fact that the management of the
vessel used all its skill to play with the weaknesses of the systems, mainly by
changing the classification society when ABS required strong repairs. After
this tragedy however, it could be expected that Leros Shipmanagement had
learned something important that it could put to use when the ISM code entered
into force for its bulkcarriers on the 1st July 1998. The ISM code requires the
management to "establish safeguards against all identified risks",
and that management could not ignore
the severity and consequences of structural deficiencies. The competence of the
management to carry out this duties as per the ISM code is confirmed by a
certificate delivered by the Flag State or a recognized organisation: the
Document of Compliance (ISM/DOC), a copy of which must be on board each vessel,
together with a particular document for that vessel: the Ship Management
Certificate (ISM/SMC) . On both documents the name of the management must be
mentioned, and also on the Continuous Synopsis Record which relates the
official history of the ship since the 1st July 2004.
At this stage with all this certification and the related surveys we can assume that
the tragedy of the LEROS STRENGTH could not repeat itself with a ship under the
same management, and that no similar risks would be taken with the structure of
their vessel, but on 22 November 2006, the Maltese bulker WARRIOR managed by
Leros Shipmanagement was detained on the Sacramento river
by the USCG of Pittsburg, California, because, among other
deficiencies, it was found that the ship had cracks up to 2.5 feet.
The Owner of the vessel, Twilight Marine, was brought to court
and pleaded guilty in a San Francisco court to grossly negligent operation of a vessel
and has been sentenced to pay a US$50,000 criminal fine and also US$100,000 in restitution
environmental restoration projects in the San Francisco Bay area even though
there was no pollution. The company was also ordered to comply with an
Environmental Compliance Plan.
In pleading guilty, Twighlight Marine admitted that in September 2006 its panamax
bulk carrier Warrior crossed the Atlantic Ocean, traveling toward North
America. During this crossing, crew members noticed several small cracks and
rust holes on the deck on the starboard side deck. The crew immediately welded
these cracks and holes. Soon after two large cracks, each approximately three
feet in length, on the port side deck of the vessel were spotted. Instead of
directing that the cracks be welded, the vessels master ordered these
cracks to be covered with tape and painted over to blend in with the painting
on the deck. Twighlight Marine admitted that it knew its vessel was in a
hazardous condition during the Atlantic crossing in that these two cracks were
not properly repaired.
The ISM code requires for the ship management to have a "Designated Person"
(DP) who must provide a link between the management and those on board and who
bears the responsibility to monitor the safety and pollution prevention aspects
of the operation of the ship. Therefore if the Master requires the crew to
camouflage a fracture he does it with at least with the implicit agreement of
the DP, assuming it would be too expensive to report the deficiency to the
local authorities while ordering the necessary repairs. That was anyway the
opinion of the US authorities which brought the Owner to court because of its
legal link with the management company which itself must exercise the necessary
control on the Master first by taking care of selecting him, then by
instructing him to follow the safety
and environmental policies of the management company.
If it was the Owner which was fined because of the existence of the above links, and
probably because its ability to bear the financial responsibilities, for the
flag state administration however the only option is to invalidate ISM/DOC of
the management company. It is however is a powerful move as all the ships of
that company cannot trade any more until the certificate is reinstated, or
until the management transfer all the affected ships to another flag whose
administration is ready to issue a valid ISM/DOC. The removal of a Class
certificate is therefore a minor setback as it affects only a single ship and
we have seen with the LEROS STRENGTH
and it can occur without much inconvenience for the owner as the ship
was provided with the necessary documents before the new Classification Society
finalized the transfer of class, when the vessel was already lying on the
bottom of the North Sea.
Anyway Leros Management got an ISM/DOC in spite of twenty deaths on the LEROS STRENGTH
however the audit for this certificate was likely carried out by another R/O,
the Lloyd's Register, appointed by another flag, Malta. It shows again the
benefit of having so many flags available, even if neither the LR nor MALTA
could claim to ignore the tragedy of the LEROS STRENGTH when it had to assess
the capacity of Leros Management to care for the WARRIOR, possibly among other
vessels. The WARRIOR came under Leros management long after the sinking of the
LEROS STRENGTH, but I have no information about the first Maltese ISM/DOC for
that company. Anyway I have still to hear about any other company loosing its
ISM/DOC after the sinking of one of its vessel due to obvious poor maintenance
or poor repairs, except the Italian Panship after the sinking of the ERIKA, but
it was not a decision of the class. The company itself stated that it stopped,
at least theoretically, with the management business.
And it shows a lot also about the value the ISM/DOC which is likely the least reliable
of all the statutory certificate. This because they are few men of the field
involved in the related audit of the management companies. It is well known
that in all organisations, including the safety organisations like the
Classification Societies and also the government's agencies, the higher
somebody is in the hierarchy the stronger the commercial/political pressure he
has to bear. While the men on the field, those who regularly board the ship,
remain at least in contact with the realities and can observe the consequences
of inappropriate certification. Moreover all the ISM affair, if it was based on
a sound idea, was finally implemented by clever guys who seldom or never set a
foot on a ship but quickly saw the financial opportunities that this new code
was going to offer. Most of them, and that include the Classification
Societies, quickly prepared a package they presented to the management companies,
not really to enhance the safety of their ship by seriously increasing the
glasnost regarding the technical problems, but to protect these companies
against the legal consequences of not adhering to some theoretical requirements
of the code. It resulted in a plethora of procedures to be adhered to by the
crew, many of them totally unnecessary, and while their observance and the
related clerical burden drastically increased the work load on board, the
manning of the vessel remained mostly the same. The result is that many
companies got an ISM/DOC without having a summary of the regulations applicable
on each of their ship, and nothing any more stopped them to enlist the cheapest
STCW officers available as it was enough for them to sign an ISM required
familiarization sheet to replace the well qualified and experienced officers
who became too expensive. And of course some of the money available from the
owners had to be saved from the needs of the ship and its crew to pay the
additional certifications and audits generated by the new regulation.
THOSE who cannot complain any more & the
plight of their RELATIVES
List of the victims
- ARCISZEWSKI Eugenieuz: master, 55 years
- BEMOWSKI Kazimierz: motor man, 45 years
- CZYSZCZON Rafal
- CZECH Janusz: third engineer, 43 years
- DYKOWSKI Andrzej: chief officer, 42 years
- GRZADZIELA Boleslaw: chief engineer, 43 years
- HOLI Wieslaw
- JANDECZKO Adam: able body, 50 years
- KOBRYN Waldemar: cook, 54 years
- MIEGON Wojciech: radio officer, 47 years
- PAZDZIORNY Boguslaw:
- PIETRZAK Henrik: motor man, 44 years
- PROCHERA Stanislaw: second engineer, 55 years
- STOCKI Mieczylaw:
- SZYMANSKI Tadeuss: motor man, 45 years
- SZYMKOWIAK Antoni: third officer, 47 years
- TASZAREK Andrzej
- TREBACZ Jerzi
- UZDROWSKI Henrik
- WROBEL Krzysztof
After the accident, the P&I proposed to the relatives of the victims to pay 30000$ as
compensation for each dead seafarer on the condition that these should abstain
from any further claims. Adding that, if they refused this offer, they could be
deprived from any compensation.
This tactic is widely used by the P&I, also
in the affair of the "Jupiter 6" where the amount offered was much
smaller (One Indian widow reported she was offered some 440$ in a similar
They take advantage that the relatives are most often isolated and
cannot coordinate their claims. One relative does not know what happens with
other relative, for sure if they are in different countries, or in very large
countries such as India and China. Internet is slowly changing this isolation,
but there is still a lot of work to be done. Anyway the widows of the LEROS
STRENGTH crew members were all coming from Poland and, with the support of ITF,
they succeeded to attract the attention of the IMO and ILO organisations which
evoked their case in their Joint Working group.
Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on liability and
compensationr egarding claims for
death, personal injury and abandonment of seafarers
ANNEX 1 : STATEMENT OF WIDOWS MRS. URSZULA MIEGON & MRS. REGINA SZYMANSKA
OF GDYNIA, POLAND
We are Mrs Urszula Miegon and Mrs Regina Szymanska,
widows of two crew members who were killed when the
LEROS STRENGTH sank off the coast of Norway on 8 February 1997.
We are pleased to make a statement to this IMO/ILO expert working group.
We make this statement also on behalf of 10 other families
whose loved ones died on the Leros Strength.
Amongst the 12 widows we represent, we have 18 children.
Since we do not speak English, we would ask that
Captain Jaskiewicz read our statement in English.
Our husbands were professional seamen and had been employed at sea
on a regular basis for 32 and 7 years respectively.
Up to the time of their deaths, our husbands were
the sole providers for our families.
Prior to our husbands deaths, we
enjoyed a moderate and comfortable lifestyle in Poland.
Since their deaths, everything has changed
and we now have to rely on charitable support
from our families and friends for basic sustenance.
We first heard about our husbands deaths
through Mr Pyzik of the crew manning agency, Morska Agencia,
who telephoned our homes and informed our family members
that the vessel had sunk.
They did not give us any information about the cause of the sinking
or whether there were any survivors.
After that, we did not hear from the Agency again until 2 days later,
when all the widows were invited to a meeting
at their offices in Gdynia to discuss compensation.
All the news that we
received about the sinking was from the radio and the television.
At the meeting with Mr Pyzik, representing the Shipowners,
and Mr Lugowski, representing the P & I Club (both from Morska Agencia),
we were told that we should accept a figure of
US$30,000 under our husbands contracts of employment in compensation for the
deaths of our husbands.
However the shipowners insisted that we accept these sums
in final settlement of all claims which we
might have against the various companies.
We considered these amounts very low.
Also after hearing the news reports, we realised that there
were serious questions about the seaworthiness of the LEROS STRENGTH and if
we accepted settlement we might never learn why our husbands died.
Therefore 12 families did not accept the offer of compensation despite vigorous
efforts on the part of the Owners representatives to make us accept this sum
and to sign a Deed of Release.
In the days immediately following the meeting at Morska Agencia,
we received numerous telephone calls
from Mrs Woycik of the P&I correspondent Surnave, urging us to settle our
claims at the level of compensation proposed by them.
We refused to accept her proposals
and subsequently she told us that if we did not accept the compensation
that was being offered by a certain date,
we would not get any payment at all.
We refused the low level of compensation and the
Shipowners and the P&I Club had no further contact with us.
Our financial losses and
hardship although very difficult to bear cannot compare with the emotional
suffering we have endured and continue to endure since our husbands
At the time of the sinking, we were very upset by the conduct of
the shipowners, Lamda Sea Shipping Co of Cyprus, and managers, Leros Management
S.A. of Greece, and their insurers, the Liverpool & London P&I Club of
The ITF are the only people
who have come forward and advised us on the cause of the sinking and the
various investigations including the dive surveys.
From these investigations it is clear that the vessel sank
because of the shipowners inexcusable failure
to properly repair and maintain their vessel.
We understand from various reports we have read
that the repair and maintenance of the LEROS STRENGTH
were supposed to be supervised and monitored by the Classification Societies,
ABS and RINA and serious defects discovered during various periodical surveys
were not dealt with as required and were a cause of the LEROS STRENGTH
We would like to know why the Classification Societies are
not accountable to us for the negligence of their surveyors.
Even when we do finally
obtain compensation as a result of the efforts of the ITF and their lawyers, it
will be a small consolation which will never replace our loved ones.
The money will probably come from the insurance company and we do not see those who
are really responsible for this tragedy being punished either financially or by
Surely people who can run businesses with such
callous disregard for human life should be accountable for their actions?
Over 3 years and 9 months
have now passed since the vessels sinking,
and we have still not received any compensation
from the shipowners or their insurers.
We do not understand
why, after such a tragic accident, we have been made to wait so long for a
decent offer of compensation.
The only time the shipowners approached us
was immediately after the sinking to persuade us to accept the very low
They have since that date made no contact at all with us.
To this day, no explanation has been given by the shipowners
as to why the ship sank and our husbands lost their lives.
We know from the ITF that the
battle for compensation has been brought before different Courts in various countries.
The shipowners seem willing to pay large sums of money to
their lawyers whilst leaving us, the victims, with nothing.
We know that the tactics of the shipowners and the P&I club
which were used against us are tactics
widely used by shipowners and their insurers to avoid paying proper
compensation to the widows and dependants of deceased seafarers.
There have been several
tragic incidents since the sinking of the LEROS STRENGTH.
We know the Polish widows of the seamen onboard the ATHENIAN FIDELITY and the SLETREAL
to name but a few who remain like us, without compensation.
It seems to us that if we could not get help from an organisation such as the ITF
that none of us would receive proper compensation
or get a proper explanation of why our loved ones died.
Why do the Shipowners, the P&I Clubs and the Classification Societies
not accept responsibility for our husbands deaths,
explain to us what happened and pay a proper level of compensation?
Why do they seek to intimidate widows and families into
accepting low levels of compensation and into signing away any other rights
they might have in law?
We want the Shipowners and their insurers
Liverpool & London to explain to us why the Leros Strength sank, and why
our husbands were killed.
We want to know why we have had to wait 3 years
and 9 months and still we have not had a decent offer of compensation.