Gas Tanker And Passenger Ferry Collision in Indonesia

I.M. Skaugen announced earlier today that a vessel operated by owned subsidiary Norgas Carriers Private Limited of Singapore was involved in an incident off the coast of Indonesia. An emergency response has been immediately activated after the Norgas Cathinka, was involved in a collision with a Ro-Ro passenger ferry near the port of Merak, Indonesia. According to officials eight people have died after the  ferry collided with a gas tanker and sank in the Sunda Strait, west of the main island of Java.

The collision took place in the Sunda Strait at 05.40 hours local time. The master of the Norgas Cathinka reported that the crew and vessel are safe. A company crisis response team from the Norgas Carriers’ Singapore office were immediately activated and they are now en route to the accident scene.

Norgas immediately offered assistance in on-going search and rescue operations and our Master later reported that passengers were rescued from the ferry. The Norgas Cathinka, a Singapore registered LPG/Chemical carrier, is now anchored in the vicinity and the ship’s master and crew are assisting the local port authorities and police in their investigations.

The Master of the Gas Tanker further reported that the vessel sustained structural damage to its hull but there has been no ingress of water and there is no danger of the vessel sinking. The cargo (propylene) of the ship is secure and there is no pollution or environmental damage to the gas tanker.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan stated that 208 crew and passengers have been evacuated after the accident.  It’s still unclear how many passengers were aboard the ferry, which had about 30 crew members. Officials were waiting for the manifest. The ferry Bahuga Jaya links Java and southern Sumatra island. A helicopter and at least 10 ships were searching for survivors, said Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman for the National Search and Rescue Agency.

Location of the accident

Update 1: Sep. 26 2012

Norgas Carriers reported that its operated vessel the Norgas Cathinka has anchored off the port of Bakauheni in Indonesia and local coast guards have left the vessel. A team of senior crisis response executives from Norgas has been dispatched in Indonesia and Norgas Carriers stressed again that it will continue to co-operate with inquiries into the causes of the incident.

Morits Skaugen, IM Skaugen Chief Executive Officer, said: “I wish to personally place on record my regret and sorrow over this sad and unfortunate incident”. I also wish to offer my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones today and stress again that as a responsible ship owner for almost 100 years, it will be our company’s absolute duty to discover the truth about how this happened. We shall be unstinting in our efforts to discover the facts of the incident and we are giving full co-operation to the investigations into the incident which continue”.

Update 2: Sep. 27 2012

The search for survivors is continuous after many family members came forward to report the names of missing loved ones. More than 210 passengers and crew have been rescued until now, but an unknown number are feared missing. Assumptions are being made that eight people are still missing/presumed dead.

Although the ferry manifest listed 213 passengers and crew and 78 vehicles on the ferry this information is not considered reliable since it is common practice in Indonesia to sell tickets onboard passengers who are never registered.

Some passengers were believed to be inside vehicles parked on the ferry when it sank, said Budi Harto, who heads the local disaster management agency in Lampung province. He said divers were facing a difficult task due to the location of the wreck, which was in waters as deep as 90 meters (295 feet). The National Transportation Safety Committee of Indonesia has assumed responsibility for the independent inquiry.

According to Norgas Carriers, allegations that the Norgas Cathinka did not stop immediately following the incident in the early hours of September 26 are false and speculations that are not helping the efforts of the authorities to conduct a fair and impartial investigation. The company stressed out that the Master has reported the Norgas Cathinka stopped as soon as it was safe to do so following the incident.

The company also confirmed the existence of a Voyage Data Recorder (“Black Box”) on the ship’s bridge. Data from this device will be jointly taken from the ship in the presence of Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee representatives and can be off significant help to the authorities during their investigation.

Update 3: Sep. 30 2012

Eight people were confirmed dead while 207 others were rescued alive after the KM Bahuga Jaya, sailing from Merak port in West Java to Sumatra Island, collided with the tanker early Wednesday, rescuers said on Friday. The exact number of people on board is not clear but authorities said the vessel was loaded with several manned vehicles including trucks, cars and motorcycles.

“Based on the accounts by family relatives, about 30 people are still missing,” Lampung provincial search and rescue chief Saidar Rahman Jaya was quoted as telling reporters. Jaya also said that three days of the accident, the possibility of finding any survivor is very low. About 78 vehicles remained inside the ferry which sank, Jaya said, adding that up to 130 rescuers including navy divers were involved in the operation.

Update 4: Oct. 25 2012

According to Turkey Sea News the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation published a preliminary report which revealed that studies have shown the “Norgas Cathinka” responded to the approaching ferry in accordance with the procedures by turning to starboard, as became clear that the two ships were on a collision course.

The Indonesian ship on the other hand, contrary to the procedures, veered to port, and thus came perpendicular to the tanker which hit the ferry in its side.

Update 5: Nov. 8 2012

In a statement released on Tuesday, Singapore-based Norgas Carriers said that the ship, the Norgas Cathinka, was still carrying 3,045 metric tons of the highly flammable and explosive chemical.

“Detaining of the ship for an extended period of time will cause disruption in propylene handling and this may pose a threat to public safety,” said Charles Freeman, a spokesman for the company. He warned that the propylene was vaporizing every day, creating a buildup of pressure in the cargo tanks.

According to company’s spokesman above mentioned pressure is controlled by liquefying using cargo compressors. The pressure is controlled by two pieces of equipment, namely the cargo compressor and the cargo tank safety relief valves. The valves and compressor were due for a periodical overhaul on Oct. 14, but this could not be done with the cargo still on board, he said.

Any failure of the cargo tank safety relief valves will lead to a direct release of vapor to atmosphere and any failure of the cargo compressors will lead to the ship [being] incapable of liquefying her cargo. This will lead to increased tank pressures and the lifting of the relief valves.

Update 6: Apr. 8 2013

Today IM Skauge released a news report regarding the release of Norgas Cathinka from its six month detention period.

The vessel “Norgas Cathinka” and its crew and cargo arrived safely at the entrance of Singapore port; having been released from its more than 6 month detention in Indonesia. All the crew, save for two, are also released or has been allowed to leave the country. Two crew members remain in custody in Indonesia awaiting completion of a trial re their role in the events leading to the collision and the loss of lives. The “Norgas Cathinka” was on departure escorted to an agreed point by police launch to ensure she was safe for a simultaneous release of an “out of court settlement” payment that Norgas Carriers and its insurance providers have made to the owners of the ferry “Bahuga Jaya”.

According to the company the stability was probably lost due to the shifting of the cargo (trucks) onboard. The ferry “Bahuga Jaya” was 40 years old and evidently not maintained for its trade. According to the company the ferry that sunk was probably unseaworthy and did most probably sink for reasons of fatigue and/or construction modification leading to its failure.

The Company stated that the available data from the VDR data (Black Box) on Norgas Cathinka makes it possible to reconstruct the events leading to the collision. From this it is evident that Norgas Cathinka  was not the vessel that caused the collision.

Sources: I.M. Skaugen SE, Aftenbladet, Jakarta Globe, The Jakarta Post, Turkey Sea News, Jakarta Globe (07.11.2012)I.M. Skaugen SE (08.04.2013)

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