In the event of a serious incident
The shipping world has recently been shaken by three spectacular incidents: the full containership Rena, owned by a Greek company but chartered by MSC, in October 2011 was left stranded on the New Zealand barrier reef, splitting in two and sinking, and leaking tons of fuel into the sea. This created the most serious environmental disaster in the history of those territories, considered one of the planet’s last remaining natural paradises; cruise liner Costa Concordia capsized in January 2012 in front of Giglio island, causing the death of several passengers; in July 2012 the full containership MSC Flaminia was badly damaged by the explosion in the Atlantic of some containers it was carrying, leading to the death of two crew members. (19) For one reason or another, in all three cases things happened showing that age-old rules of the sea are no longer being respected. In the case of the Costa, a captain abandoning ship before passengers and crew are rescued, for the Rena a government that fails to halt a ship on which 17 breaches of safety norms have been detected by controlling bodies, and for the MSC Flaminia the ports of three major nations (United Kingdom, France, Portugal) that refused to give shelter to a damaged ship. Market deregulation appears to be eroding the practices and morals underpinning the pride and identity of seafaring men. On 4 February the ULCC Emma Maersk underwent damage to its engines caused by a flooded engine room while it was entering the Suez Canal, and had to be towed to the nearest port. This accident, which did not cause damage to persons or to waterways, suddenly brought up a number of questions about what might happen if one of these “giants of the sea” crashed or had serious damage to its engines or to steering equipment in a port, a sensitive waterway or in the middle of the ocean. (20) The best known sea salvage company, working in cases such as Costa Concordia and MSC Flaminia, is Dutch company Smit. One of its managing directors, Klaas Reinigert, former President of the International Salvage Union, one week after the Emma Maersk incident, gave an interview to “Lloyd’s List”, published on the website on 13 February. (21) There was a time when firms specialising in salvage
Giant ships may therefore be of some utility to shipowners, to operators, but they are currently of little use to the market, to the logistics chain, or to the economy. On the subject of safety they are a serious unknown. The “Emma Maersk”, towed to the shipyards of Palermo with 13,000 m3 of contaminated seawater in its engine room, 13,537 Teu onboard, 7,112 of which empty, is emblematical of this senseless business. (22)
20. Craig Eason, A ship’s Achilles’ heel, on “LLoyd’s List” of 20 February 2013, mentioning the possibility that the vessel will be broken up due to the uncertainty about repair costs.
21. Salvage industry must make way for new blood, says former ISU chief, edited by Liz McMahon.
22. Exact cargo figures in Emma Maersk towed to Palermo, 19 February 2013, “Lloyd’s List”. “Vale Beijin”, the world’s largest bulk carrier, also had a ballast tank damaged during its inaugural trip, and had to be towed back to the yard.