Back to Casualty List | Search The Casualty Database
Precis File
SHIP NAME: Halo Cygnus KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 4
source FSI
type D
volume Y
material
dead 6
link

North Pacific Ocean. Hull failure. Total loss and loss of life. Other ship: Las Sierras (PA).


source FSI11IMO
type A
volume
material
dead 6
link

Open sea conditions, clear weather, daylight, crossing ships on a steady course. Vessels collided, Las Sierras striking Halo Cygnus on starboard side penetrating No 1 cargo hold. Since crew members from Halo Cygnus killed.

Angle of approach about 20 degrees abaft the beam, marginal crossing overtaking situation. Watchkeeping/lookout onboard both vessels, prime facie ineffective. From Halo Cygnus, it is known that OOW was working for prolonged periods at chart table. No lookout. No evidence from Las Sierras. Las Sierras was stand on vessel whether overtaking or crossing situation but subject to COLREG Rule 17. Deficient watchkeeping/lookout on both ships.

Failure of most basic watchkeeping/lookout requiorements. No lookout maintained by officer of the Watch at chart table laying out courses. Routine monotony. Violation of basic procedures.


source MUA, Workers on Line, 21 May 1999
type D
volume
material
dead 6
link http://workers.labor.net.au/14/news9_mus.html

Able seamen Ricky Lumio was one of six crew working down number 2 hold on the Pamananian flag of convenience Halo Cygnus on the afternoon of March 8 when the second ship hit: "I heard a big crash and water cascaded in, then I looked starboard and saw the bow of a ship come through the hold. I ran for my life. We were all shouting. I got to the ladder and climbed up with the water wrapping itself around me, chasing me all the way up. I was soaked through."

The two bulk carriers, Halo Cygnus and the Las Sierras, both flying the Panama flag of convenience, were on route to Australia, 600 nautical miles southwest of Guam when the collision took place. It was a fine still day in the tropics just north of the equator. US Coast Guard, Guam reports the seas were flat. Visibility was excellent.

According to crew reports the second mate and radio operator were on watch on the deck of the Halo Cygnus shortly before the collision. The Las Sierras was just a dot on the horizon. The second mate later told the surviving crew that he got a call to change course and went to the bridge.

The ship had been heading for the northeast coast of Australia. It was redirected to the west coast. The radio operator had seen the Las Sierras in the distance by telescope. He then went back to his radio portside.

Minutes later the giant bow of the Las Sierras hit starboard, smashing through the side of their ship. Six of Ricky's workmates were trapped down the flooded hold, two of them tangled in ropes they were using to winch themselves up the side they were cleaning. The impact of the water spun the ropes around them like a web, dismembering one man's hand.

It was a terrifying two hours after impact before the call came to abandon ship. All surviving crew were moved on board the Las Sieras. But within 48 hours ship management ordered them back on the sinking bulk carrier to pump out ballast water and keep the now badly listing Halo Cygnus afloat.

Chief engineer Godofredo Hermoso was first back on board. "We worked each day, staying on the rescue boat at night. It took six days before divers from Guam reached the vessel and retrieved the bodies. All this time we worked the ship while our dead crew mates decomposed down the hold. The smell was terrible. All we could do was tie handkerchiefs around our noses. Each day I worked I had the same strange experience. Around 3 or 4 each afternoon, around the time of the accident, I heard voices calling for help. I could not understand what they were saying. Their words were drowned out. I just heard their screams. They were my friends and workmates. The evening before the collision we had a karoki party in the TV room. We were all singing. All but one of the dead had wives and young children. The eldest was only 38 years of age. The youngest was only 22.

By the time they recovered the bodies their faces were so decomposed they had to get my friend Ricky to identify each of the dead by their clothing. The corpses were then put on the tug with the surviving crew and transported back to Guam

Only for intervention from the International Transport Workers' Federation, Godofredo may have had no choice. The ITF voiced concern for the welfare of the survivors and alerted its Philippines office which contacted crew.

An inquiry into the ship collision will now be left to Panama were both ships were registered so as to avoid scrutiny of safety and crew conditions in the first place. "It will be a whitewash," said ITF Australia Co-ordinator Trevor Charles. "These ships get away with murder. "

Only this February the ITF head office in London released a damning report on the state of the Pamananian FOC registry. The report brands Panama 'Number One' deficient flag state in the world. It catalogues an "appalling record of maritime casualties, port state control detentions, ships abandoned and seafarers cheated out of their wages, among other serious deficiencies."

The ITF estimates that Panama earns around US$20 million a year for selling its flag, but takes none of its responsibilities as a flag state seriously. With its open registry Panama supports a system which exploits seafarers and undermines the shipping industry," said ITF Assistant General Secretary


source CTX
type D
volume Y
material
dead 6
link

Photo at MUA link shows daytime, dead calm, good visibility. Brand new Halo Cygnus clearly was in ballast. (If she were loaded, she almost certainly would have sunk.) Big damage iwo No 1 starboard side, The hole extends the full length of Hold No 1, from deck to waterline and below. Cant tell depth of penetration but it is big. The No 2 hatch cover has been lifted off, probably as a result of the No 1/2 bhd failing low, and then the flooding over-pressurizing No 2 hold. Deck forward is almost submerged.

This collision raises so many obvious questions:

Why is the FSI database so non-descriptive?

And most importantly, how could two big ships on nearly parallel courses run into each other in perfect conditions?

The FSI11 entry above is presumably extracted from the Panama report which as always puts all the blame on the crew. But as usual the flag state report (which we cannot see) generates more questions than answers.

Firstly, if it were an overtaking situation, the Las Sierras could not as Panama claims be the stand on vessel. It would be a big help if we knew the ships' speeds.

Secondly, why was no evidence taken from Las Sierras? In this situation, the ships would have been aware of each other for hours. The Halo Cygnus crew statements make it clear her bridge was aware of if not particularly concerned about the Las Sierras. The Panama investigation apparently did not discover this.

Thirdly, why was the Cygnus OOW alone on the bridge in contravention of all the rules. The answer to this is almost certainly crew size. With at least six people working forward, there was probably nobody left to stand watch. We need the crew size, but the summary of the flag state report does not give us that.

Why were the people working in the hold not warned? Crews working in holds always carry walkie-talkies, so they can ask for tools, etc.

The inescapable conclusion is that one of the ships --- probably the Las Sierras --- did something shortly before the collision that caught the other ship by surprise. In such a situation a 5 or 10 minute lapse in watchkeeping could be critical. The reason why the CTX guesses it was the Las Sierras is that it sounds like the OOW of the Halo Cygnus was still at the chart table working out the new course. If he had finished, he would certainly have looked around before making a major alteration in course. The fact that he failed to warn the crew in the hold makes it pretty clear he was in the chart room. Also nothing in the Halo Cygnus crew statements hints of either problems in the engine room or that the ship had changed course. The Las Sierras on the other hand is suspiciously silent.

If CTX had to make a guess it would be that the Las Sierras was overtaking the Halo Cygnus on the Cygnus's starboard side. Both ships were comfortable with the situation. Neither was keeping a proper watch, in part because of overly small crews. The Las Sierras lost her steering and went port, turning into the Halo Cygnus. But without a proper investigation who knows?

The Halo Cygnus was repaired and returned to service.