By Jim Mulrenan | TRADEWINDS.NO
A Bertram Rickmers owned containership has been held to be 70% responsible for a collision that claimed the lives of 13 seafarers on a small general cargoship.
The collision between the 1,864-teu Rickmers Genoa (built 2003) equipped for carrying heavy cargo and the 5,700-dwt general cargoship Sun Cross (built 1984) operated by South Korea’s Ja Sung Marine occurred more than five years ago in the Yellow Sea.
The Sun Cross laden with a cargo of pig iron sank within minutes of the March 2005 night time collision with the loss of 13 of the 15 crew members.
A London admiralty court found fault with the navigation of both vessels but Justice David Steel ruled “Rickmers Genoa must clearly carry the preponderance of blame.”
The judge described a decision to turn the Rickmers Genoa to port as “wholly improper.”
Rickmers however contended that its ship was inhibited from turning to starboard by the proximity of fishing vessels.
The Rickmers Genoa was the stand on vessel and the Sun Cross the give way vessel under navigation regulations.
The Rickmers Genoa, since renamed the Rickmers Dalian, was equipped with ARPA radars and AIS which identified the Sun Cross as a dangerously proximate target.
The second officer of the containership then made attempts to contact the general cargoship by VHF radio.
“The persistent and unsuccessful attempts to make contact whilst in the meantime making no alteration of course and speed are strongly suggestive of a reliance on VHF contact as the method of first resort in collision avoidance. This is to be deplored as enhancing the risks rather than limiting them,” noted Justice Steel.
The judge said he suspected the emergence of AIS providing the identity of vessels as well as range, bearing, course and speed had encouraged private VHF arrangements as a collision avoidance technique.
The ruling arises from claims from the owners of cargo aboard the Sun Cross, with the consequence of the 70:30 apportionment of blame determining financial liability in the same proportions.
Justice Steel sat with nautical assessor, Capt Derek Richards, who advised the judge on the navigational aspects of the dispute.