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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Breakthrough KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 2
source ATSB
type D

This is the official Australian report. This saga is must reading for anyone interested in marine safety.

A Nigerian owners buys a laid up 7032 dwt Chinese coastal tanker unseen. Sends a crew out. The ship built in 2006 was nearly new, but it had been laid up since build. Crew finds the ship in very poor condition with myriad defects, including nil spares. Labels and manuals are all in Chinese. Owner decides to use IFO (heavy fuel) for most of voyage to Africa. C/E informs correctly informs the owner that the engine has only run on MDO and requires modifications to run on IFO. Owner decides to use IFO anyway without making the modifications. He loads 250 tons of MDO and 400 tons of IFO, saving about $80,000. C/E has never been on an IFO ship before. His experience is mainly in offshore supply boats using only MDO. Ship leaves China on 2008-01-07 with almost no testing or trials, running on MDO. Air con is not working, among many other systems.

After passing through the Sunda Strait, on 2008-01-20, they are forced to change to IFO. Immediately have all kinds of problems: clogged filters, clogged injectors, etc, etc in part because the IFO is improperly heated, possibly wrong gravity disc in purifiers, wrong filters. Somewhere along the way they contaminate most of the remaining MDO with IFO by mistakenly transferring IFO in cargo tanks to an MDO tank. All the valve labels are in Chinese.

Master decides to drift in the Indian Ocean to allow owner time to send him MDO for rest of voyage. Owner does pretty much nothing for several weeks. After three weeks, running out of water, food, faced with near-mutiny, Master decides to head for Cocos Islands at low power.

On 2008-02-11 Breakthrough anchors off South Keeling. Normal SE trade switches to westerly wind putting ship on a lee shore. On 2008-02-12 anchor begins to drag, extra anchor and slow ahead fails to keep the ship from grounding, damaging steering gear and propeller.

On 2008-02-13 Breakthough is refloated. On 2008-02-28 she begins a tow to Singapore.

source CTX
type C
dead 0

There are so many causes and causal factors in this sad saga that it hard to know where to begin. The crew was clearly unprepared, marginally qualified, and did a poor job of familiarizing themselves with the ship while in China. But the Australians correctly put most of the blame on the owner, which gave the crew a ship that was not ready to go to sea, forced them to use IFO for which neither the ship nor the crew were prepared, and then totally failed to support them when the ship inevitably got into trouble. Under the circumstances, the crew did just about everything they could to muddle through.

To the CTX, the most telling footnote is the Class status of the ship. The ship's certificates were issued by soemthing called Mark Ship Management and New United (International) Marine Services (who turned out to be the same organization). Since the flag state, Sierre Leone, had duly authorized Mark to do so, there was nothing illegal about this. Mark was effectively the ship's classification society although there is no evidence that they did any inspections at all. However Mark over-stepped itself when it listed itself as the ship's safety management company. Since Mark had nothing to do with the ship's management, this was a violation of the ISM code, for which the Australians roundly criticized Sierre Leone. The fact that the ship had no real classification society seemed not to bother the Australians.

When the ship reached Singapore, the Singaporeans took one look at the ship, and immediately detained her. At this writing, she apparently is still in Singapore. In the Port State report, the Singaporeans had to put something in the Classification Society field. They said NONE.