Boxship MSC Flaminia IMO 9225615, dwt 85823, capacity 6750 TEU, built 2001, flag Germany, technical manager NSB NIEDERELBE SCHIFFAHRTSGES, manager MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co.
Salvage tug Fairmount Expedition IMO 9358943, GRT 3239, built 2007, flag Netherlands.
The flow of complaints from frustrated shippers whose goods are either destroyed in MSC Flaminia fire, or are held by the shipping company until owners pay the full cost of the goods, in accordance with declared General Average, is not drying up. I believe the fate of the vessel is rather irrelevant to the true meaning of MSC Flaminia story, which is, to my and all those who suffer understanding, a big-scale, gross violation of consumer rights. I don’t know how to help helpless minor shippers, or how to organize a collective claim and sue the shipping companies, both MSC and NSB. I decided to open a MSC Flaminia victims Log Book for all those whose goods were destroyed by fire, or are held by the companies in what may be considered as a blatant extortion. Tell your story and leave your contacts, even if no public and legal actions will arise, at least it will be a rough picture of hidden side of the accident, just for the record.
Anyone capable of assisting victims of MSC Flaminia, is welcome with comments, advises or maybe, initiatives.
March 24 2013
MSC Flaminia will be repaired in Romania
March 24 13: After deactivation and thorough cleansing MSC Flaminia left Germany on March 15 13, and proceeded under own power to the Daewoo Yard in Mangalia, Romania, for repairs and replacement of the mid-section. ETA Mangalia March 28. On a photo from Die Welt MSC Flaminia is towed out of Jade Weser Port, Wilhelmshaven.
MSC Flaminia: shipper required to pay the cost of his goods to get them back from MSC/NSB
Maritime Bulletin received yet one more letter from a cargo owner who shipped his goods on board of MSC Flaminia. He shipped a car from the US, cost of the car is $5,200. Container with his car wasn’t damaged. He can’t retrieve his container until he pays General Average, which for him, was calculated as a sum of $5,200 (is it some kind of a bad joke, twisted sense of humor?). He is at a loss what to do – curse it all around and forget about car, or try to do something?
Questions to those who’re defending the General Average Rule, at least in MSC Flaminia case –how that fire can be even theoretically connected to the risks of the seas; and how does it come that minor shippers should suffer substantial losses in order for carrier to cover his losses? $5,200 may seem a small sum, but for an individual it may be equal, comparatively, to the loss of ocean-going container ship for the carrier company.
The MSC Flaminia fire is the result of utterly inadequate present-day container safety regulations, and the inability for any major carrier to check all the containers it loads and carries. Radically new approach to container safety can’t be adapted separately by this or that carrier, actually such an undertaking exceeds the capabilities of all of them taken together, and requires international efforts. But at least it’s a subject to discussion, like it was the case with terror threat and demand for physical check of each container destined to the US. At least the public has a right to know the statistics of container fire-related incidents on board of container ships. There is something though, carriers could do by themselves, to improve the safety – they could stop the malpractice of stacking containers with safe goods together with containers with dangerous goods.
As for MSC Flaminia minor shippers, I still strongly believe they may collectively sue the carrier on the same basis they could sue the management of warehouse or hotel or any other storage facility, which failed to provide the guaranteed safety. Technically, physically speaking, there’s absolutely no difference between fire on board of MSC Flaminia and fire in a land storage facility, and natural causes, namely sea voyage risks, have nothing to do with MSC Flaminia fire. That’s the point.
To all who suffered from MSC Flaminia fire and from MSC and NSB
Since the beginning of MSC Flaminia story, I received more than a dozen letters from shippers, mainly individuals who shipped their goods by MSC Flaminia. MSC and NSB declared a General Average, making everyone responsible for the fire on board, and resulting contamination and destruction of many of the containers. I proposed to shippers, long ago, to try to unite and sue the carrier collectively. A small shipper, especially individual, has no chance to stand against multinational major carrier in court.
I still believe the general idea behind General Average rule is basically wrong, and that’s where the main and only hope, for those who feel themselves simply robbed by the carrier, lies. I explained myself before, and I’ll repeat my reason one more time – General Average law is a relict of sailing ships and Lloyd’s Coffee House era, when risks emerging from sea transportation were incomparably higher than they’re now. What is more, the fire on board of MSC Flaminia can not be described as originated from the dangers of the high seas. Let’s put it this way – it was a fire caused by improper management of the warehouse, by either breaking the rules of fire safety, or due to insufficient, outdated rules. In an accident like this one, technically, the only difference between conventional warehouse and MSC Flaminia and other boxships is, that the boxships are floating warehouses, while a conventional warehouse stays on the ground. There was absolutely nothing in the accident, which can be connected or rooted to maritime risks, to storms, tsunami, cyclones, navigational errors, fog, snow, etc. We keep unchanged the Rule of General Average from the times when women had no voting rights and were considered to be inferior to men, when death penalty was the punishment for several dozen, if not hundred, crimes, many of which are now considered petty, so it’s only logical to question the Rule’s justifiability and compliance with present day realities.
I received a letter from one more ill-fated shipper, whose two brand new Porsche Panamera cars were destroyed by the fire, and who is to pay now a full cost of invoice to NSB. He and some 5 other shippers he was able to get in touch with, are cherishing the idea of collective claim against the carrier.
I invite all those who’re suffering financial and other losses originated not only by fire itself, but by the General Average, declared by MSC and NSB, to unite with the shippers I mentioned before. You’ll have a very good chance to win I suppose, if you unite, make yourselves heard and noticed, and go public with this, I’d say, outrageous story.
You may contact me by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the online contact form http://www.news.odin.tc/index.php?page=view/contacthttp://www.news.odin.tc/index.php?page=view/contact
Jan 14 2013
MSC Flaminia. The unjust law and its’ advocates.
I’ve received already two letters explaining to me my general illiteracy with regards to General Average and principles of Marine Insurance. Here is the latest:
I have noticed that you are saying General Average is General Robbery. – Please, read up on the general principles of Marine Insurance. General Average is a founding marine insurance principle on which all marine insurance was established in Lloyd’s Coffee House. – Writing the way you do on this subject, establishes you as a not credible source (marked in strong letters by the author) on matters maritime.
As for your student, surely he must have purchased insurance for his shipment! – He probably booked it with a freight forwarder who arranged the insurance for him. All he has to do is file a claim with his insurance company and they will handle the General Average.
The General Average will be handled by the General Average Adjuster who will make a rough estimate of the cost of salvage and everybody pays a bond in proportion to their value and it will eventually be settled once all the bills are in.
On General Average: Because back in the days of Lloyd’s Coffee House the merchants owned their own ships, the underwriting of risk was for both ship and cargo on one policy. – After the functions have been split, the voyage is still considered a “Joint Venture”. Same is reflected in law as well, in this case the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act according to which a ship owner is liable for a maximum amount of $ 500.00 per Bill of Lading and is only liable if he is negligent and fails to maintain a seaworthy ship but not for the neglect of his servants.
Niels B. Lyngso
Let me explain my position and I guess, position of many, why do we find the General Average as General Average Robbery.
The General Average you’re talking about is an anachronism and subject to much criticism. The General Average is under attack from those who’re saying it’s a grossly outdated relic of the era of sails and Cutty Sark, when each voyage, each sailing was an unpredictable undertaking with a big chance of a disaster. Let me remind you pending Rotterdam Rules with the elimination of the "nautical fault defence" clause. Peter Townsend of Swiss Re went further than that and finds the whole idea of General Average as too outdated and incongruous.
You see, Mr.Lyngso, there is a very big difference between sailing ship of coffee–houses era and modern ocean-going boxships. Modern boxship is actually, a state-of-art floating warehouse, operated with the precision of a Swiss clock, and it can’t be compared to the say, clippers, in terms of their vulnerability to natural disasters. You wrote:
“a ship owner … is only liable if he is negligent and fails to maintain a seaworthy ship but not for the neglect of his servants”
But you’re dead wrong. It’s not a seaworthiness we’re talking about, it’s the reliability, the safety of a modern industry complex equal to modern warehouse. Let me give you an example to illustrate the situation the unhappy clients of MSC and NSB found themselves in.
Let’s imagine there is a hotel in a town, known to host anyone who agrees to cash in, a hotel full of pyromaniacs and all kinds of troublemakers. Let’s imagine you check in this hotel, and found there is a gas tank standing next to your door, explosives and inflammables scattered all around in corridors and fire exits, and all kinds of people hanging around any time of day or night. Let’s say a fire broke out, you managed to escape with all your belongings left behind in a room. Let’s say your belongings weren’t destroyed, but the hotel locked them up after declaring General Average. You’ll be advised to look into the contract which you automatically agreed with when checking in the hotel. You’ll see in a multi-page contract, somewhere on the last page, printed in smallest possible font, the details of your rights and your obligations. You’ll be thrilled to find out, that in some bygone era the hotel had to work out General Average insurance coverage as the only way to survive in times, when the hotel was a wooden junk destroyed regularly by slightest earth tremours, landslides, lightning, city fires, rains and Indians on the warpath. All of those disasters were declared as acts of God, subject to General Average, and like holy scripts, live unchanged to the present day. The nowadays hotel is a modern building technically capable of withstanding any natural disasters, short of 9.9 scale earthquake or a direct bomb hit. But there is no safety inside – not that the owners don’t care for it, no – it’s simply the question of economy. They don’t find it profitable to guarantee safety, it’s too expensive, it doesn’t pay off, providing of course, that the General Average is kept an archaic relic, and there are not many hotels around to provide town’s visitors with a safer choice.
I don’t think you’ll check in such a hotel, Mr.Lyngso, especially if you know all risks involved and you know the legal implications. But what will you do when there is no choice, and you know nothing about your legal status, nor do you care, believing the hotel to be safe and secure, as the ads promise?
Mr.Lyngso, you’re absolutely right in one, legal aspect of the whole matter – nobody is trying to belie the General Average legal status, including me. What I’m trying to say and to claim is something different – I found the whole idea of General Average as being too convenient for the carrier to avoid his responsibility to provide the safety of the transportation. To equal the risk of fire in a warehouse to risks the ships were exposed to in Nelson’ times, like storm for example, is an absurdity, but alas, too convenient absurdity.
Mind you, Mr.Lyngso, I fully understand the impossibility of achieving a guaranteed safety of liner transportation under the present circumstances. I understand that world major carriers simply can’t provide the required for safety thorough (physical) checks of each container loaded on their vessels, they just don’t have enough resources. It requires an international convention, no less. Until then, nearly all containers are transported without any check at all on a good trust, that the shipper is a responsible person and correctly declared the character of his goods. As a result, we have what we have – quite a number of dangerous goods go as safe ones, and more to that, carriers mingle safe containers with dangerous even when knowing it. All of the ocean-going boxships turned into floating bombs waiting for their chance to explode, and there is nothing anyone can do anything about it, at present.
Still, be the major carriers socially responsible bodies, they could do quite a lot to minimize the risks for the main bulk of their clients, for minor shippers. They could, first of all, make the incident statistics public, in order for general public to be able to appreciate the risks. They could yield some share of the market to small-middle sized carriers who can guarantee a safe transportation, safe at least from fires and explosions. What I mean is simple – if I ship the goods which are so precious to me that I can’t afford to lose them, insurance or not, I must have a choice how to ship them, cheap or safe. Now I don’t have one, thanks to major carriers and their lawyers. The major carriers care for major shippers and for the share of the market, not for me, an ordinary person.
As for the way you dealt with the student (and other individuals and small companies), I find it, excuse me, simply insulting:
“As for your student, surely he must have purchased insurance for his shipment! – He probably booked it with a freight forwarder who arranged the insurance for him. All he has to do is file a claim with his insurance company and they will handle the General Average”.
Mr.Lyngso, where is the world you’re lucky to inhabit, situated? A perfect world with nothing to worry about, providing a person is insured? Don’t you understand, that notwithstanding insurance, ordinary people and small companies suffer losses, whether they’ll get their goods back, or will be compensated in accordance with the insurance?
Look, there is a family who shipped all the goods they have, all their family belongings including furniture, by MSC Flaminia. Now they can’t get it back, and have to buy everything from the scratch. It doesn’t matter if they finally, receive the goods or compensation, they already suffered heavy financial losses. There are many people around, who are not well-off, Mr.Lyngso, and for those people the loss of all their goods is a catastrophe of cosmic, life-long proportions, which will cut off all their previously planned expenses including medical or educational. They may not recover from such a loss for a long time, or for the rest of their lives. For a wealthy man the loss of all his personal belongings may be a nice break of his routine ways, a reason to indulge himself in an unscheduled shopping spree. For an ordinary man it may be a financial disaster.
There are many such people around, in fact most part of humankind is actually, poor, living on the verge of survival. The same applies to small companies – whether they’ll get the goods back, or not, whether the goods were insured or not, all of them already suffered losses, and some of them went or will go bankrupt. There was only one way to get off MSC Flaminnia accident without losses or maybe even with a profit – to know about the fire in advance, and to insure the goods respectively. Most part of the shippers did what all of us do – insured the goods at a minimal possible cost, considering the insurance more of a nuisance than of necessary precaution.
Let me share with you, Mr.Lyngso, my personal experience of being robbed by a big corporation. I took a credit card in a Citi Group bank Moscow Branch. I left Moscow three years ago, card expired two years ago (with no debt on my side, I’ve been covering all the credits in time and in full), but the bank is fastidiously charging me each month with accumulating bill for the services which go on with the card. There is only one way to get rid of the damn thing, to visit Moscow Branch in person. Or else I will be haunted till my death and who knows, maybe the curse will be inherited by my children. When I was signing for a card, I was presented with a booklet, you know, usual stuff – happy imbecile looking family, happy children, happy dog and happy house cockroaches, explaining to me how lucky I’m to become a Citi Group client. As in the case with liner Bills of Lading, most important details were printed on the last page in a font requiring a microscope.
All of it – whether issuing a client a credit card, or Bill of Lading, the way it is now, is a gross violation of my consumer rights. I should be handed with a booklet where on the main page, in CAPITAL LETTERS, will be listed all the clauses which make me wrong, and the Bank or the Carrier right, explaining why I’m to be blamed for everything, and explaining to me, clear and loud, the negative consequences, which may result from my agreement to become a client of this or that corporation.
You’d say of course, that I have nobody to blame except myself, I must check everything. You’ll be right again, but again, your rightness is imaginary, is an illusion, is a scratch on the surface. I’m an ordinary person not accustomed in my everyday life to the intricacies of the laws and trickeries of corporate services. I can defend myself from street violence or a swindler, I’m prepared for such encounters by my own and other people experience, it’s just the way we live. But I am not prepared to find swindlers and muggers either in Bank, or in Carrier’s office. I didn’t know from my former experiences, that I have to treat them with much more caution than I treat card sharks or street muggers. If street muggers rob me, they’ll rob me once. Corporations may rob me for the rest of my life just for one contract I was foolish enough to sign.
You’re saying that such is the law, but the laws we create are not the laws of the nature – it’s simply the question of who is creating laws and for what purpose, either the laws are aimed to the benefit of the society, or they’re aimed to the benefit of those who profit on the ignorant public. Mine, and myriads of other people of my kin, common sense tells me, that the major bloody players, be them banks or carriers, or whatever else, are cheating us flat and what’s more fearsome, the more we go on, the less choice we have. And the less are the chances to defend ourselves too, or even avoid the damn services they’re inflicting upon us. For example, there is almost no way in Internet to pay for the goods or services by a debit card – why? Because debit cards are not as profitable for the banks as credit ones. There is almost no way one may ship his goods by a small, personally committed, carrier – they are being wiped out by the majors. And the same may be said for many other aspects of our sorry lives.
When I labeled the General Average with General Robbery, I wasn’t trying to dispute the legitimacy of the General Average as it stands now, I was trying to understand why it seems to be so unjust, why so many clients of the MSC yell a bloody murder, why do they feel themselves cheated and humiliated. You chose an approach familiar to all the corporate lawyers – you went in for what’s on the surface – there’s such or that law, so there’s nothing to talk about. The public, the society, has its rights, you know. One of them is the right to analyze and appreciate this or that occurrence, finding it right or wrong, and if it’s wrong, trying to change rules which let it happen. The corporations make the laws, we commons try to change them, when we find them unbearable.
Nov 10 2012
One more victim of MSC and NSB describes his ordeal
Nov 7: One more victim of MSC and NSB shares his sorrowful experience with his goods shipped on board of MSC Flaminia:
We are a family who have left the Americas by the end of June to move back to Europe. All our belongings, household of a family of 4 including furniture is in a container transported by MSC Flaminia. Our container is apparently not damaged and was offloaded on September 28 and inspected on October 1st. Since then it is standing in Jade-Weser-Port and nothing is happening. We had to buy everything new to start a new household. Nobody can tell us when delivery of the container can be expected. It is not only a financial disaster but also emotionally very difficult for our children to settle here in Europe without having anything left from their previous life. I am very very angry. Thanks for your website.
MSC Flaminia. Student fell a victim to MSC General Average and can’t retrieve his goods.
November 6: I received a letter from a student who shipped all his personal belongings by MSC Flaminia after graduating from a college. His goods survived the fire intact, but nevertheless, they’re as good to him as being totally destroyed. That’s what MSC’s and NSB’s General Average is all about. General Robbery is a much more appropriate term in this case.
Hi my name is Dee, I am a student I have all my goods on MSC Flaminia, even my diploma because I finish school and I am going back to my country. The owner of vessel says my cargo is fine ,but I have to pay the full value of the cargo plus shipping, which I can not pay now, my agence telling me to call MSC. MSC tell me they do not have any contract with me so I need to talk to my agency that forward the cargo, and the agency tell me I can not sue them because they have good lawyer on their side. What advice can I get from you?
Is there anyone who can advise poor guy what to do? Please contact me email@example.com and I’ll pass the contact over to that guy.
MSC Flaminia update
cargo is a hostage kept by carrier in order to collect “general average”
Oct 30: Reportedly, the removal of the containers on board of MSC Flaminia will be completed at best, by the end of the year. MSC is planning to move the offloaded cargo to Bremerhaven / Antwerp. The status of the cargo, undamaged and otherwise, is, if cut all the lawyers crap, is very simple, cargo is a hostage kept by carrier in order to collect “general average”. One reader of Maritime Bulletin commented that MSC and NSB are absolutely justified in declaring General Average, him being most probably, an employee of either MSC/NSB, or other liner company. He deliberately made no difference between force major circumstances and negligence. Applying his logics, the owner of burned warehouse or hotel may declare General Average as well, and demand clients to share his losses.
Latest news from NSB site:
Buxtehude, October 24 2012
As part of the clean-up operations onboard MSC FLAMINIA, the first containers with remaining hotspots were unloaded yesterday. The contents were compressed cellulose as well as wood and paper which could only be extinguished by removing the surrounding container hulls. The fire extinguishing operation, which was conducted by the fire brigade Wilhelmshaven and firefighting experts which were appointed specifically by Reederei NSB, succeeded as planned. After completion of these operations, the final hotspots onboard of MSC FLAMINIA will be extinguished. During the next stages of the clean-up operations, additional destroyed, damaged and intact containers will be unloaded in the coming days. The unloading process is conducted according to the previously specified disposal concept. The carrier, MSC, has meanwhile indicated that an on-carriage of cargo to Bremerhaven / Antwerp is being planned in the very near future for all cargo which has been found fit for on-carriage and for which proper Salvage and General Average Securities have been provided. Cargo interests are therefore, once again, requested to urgently put up security as MSC will consider an on-carriage once a sufficient number of containers are ready for on-carriage. Some cargo underwriters refuse to issue cargo securities before their insured cargo has been fully surveyed. Please be aware that this will significantly delay the release process. We would therefore suggest that cargo underwriters give security for the full value of the cargo and once the cargo is fully surveyed the cargo values will be adjusted and in line with the joint survey findings also the value of the guarantees will be amended.
What is the difference between MSC/NSB and Somali pirates?
MSC Flaminia Oct 15: NSB at last, published a press-release on Oct 12 with containers offload update. So far, a total of 442 containers have been unloaded. This includes both damaged and undamaged containers, writes NSB, adding, that “Unscathed containers are stored in a closed off area of the port until the general average has been processed”. If NSB wanted to inform the shippers on the fate of their cargo, and cool them down, it failed to do so, because the NSB said actually, that the cargoes are hold by MSC/NSB as hostages until the shippers will compensate the losses suffered by MSC/NSB. I’m no lawyer or banker, I don’t know how to rob people, I just try to fathom the situation with a common sense. What I mean is, what general average are we talking about, was it natural disaster, or was it violation of the safety rules on the part of NSB and MSC, messing together dangerous containers and safe ones on board of their vessels? Do the companies in question posses a right to hold undamaged containers until their insurers figure out how much the shippers WILL HAVE TO PAY for the accident, do they have such a right at all? If they do have such a right, what makes them different from Somali pirates, then? Somali pirates extort money enforcing their right by guns, MSC and the like enforce theirs by lawyers, and the only difference I see is the scale of the business and profits, the latter being incomparably more profitable. By the way, where is the European Shippers Council? What is it they’re so busy with, they’re figuring their share in Nobel Peace Prize money?
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, October 12 2012
MSC FLAMINIA is still at the quay of Jade-Weser-Port in Wilhelmshaven. There, the unloading of the vessel and the disposal of the cargo which was affected by the incident continues. So far, a total of 442 containers have been unloaded. This includes both damaged and undamaged containers. They are unloaded according to the disposal concept. In order to unload damaged containers, a custom built steel trough is used. It allows the safe transfer of the cargo from the vessel to the quay. After ensuring that no harm for the population and the environment emanates from the unloaded, damaged containers, their contents are disposed. Subsequently the container hulls are scrapped. Unscathed containers are stored in a closed off area of the port until the general average has been processed. The insurance of Reederei NSB has appointed the general average adjusters Schlimme & Partner (Hamburg) and Rogers Wilkin Ahern (London), who themselves have included adjuster Groninger Welke Janssen. Last week, the superstructure of MSC FLAMINIA has been cleaned and was approved by the authorities. Since then, a crew consisting of twelve seafarers of Reederei NSB is onboard MSC FLAMINIA and is supervising the ongoing operations. According to the disposal concept, these operations are supposed to last for two to three months. The overall direction remains with the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in Cuxhaven.
Children left without diagnosis thanks to MSC and NSB
Oct 10: There were two questions with regards to MSC Flaminia present situation: the position and condition of the vessel and situation with the containers, whether they were handed over to owners or still remain in the port.
Mr. Richard Snow, reader of Maritime Bulletin, wrote that he traced MSC Flaminia with the help of live web cam in Jade Weser Port. Vessel is in the same position, quite a number of mostly undamaged containers are already offloaded.
Meanwhile Maritime Bulletin received a letter from a doctor in Russia who shipped with MSC Flaminia $300,000 worth medical diagnostic equipment, very rare in Russia and vitally important for the correct diagnosis of children suffering a peculiar disease. In very strong terms he slated MSC and NSB as being frustratingly belligerent and abusive towards their customers. His equipment is a fragile one, very sensitive to outside temperature, with winter close at hand, equipment is endangered by looming low temperature and may be damaged beyond the restoration. MSC and NSB didn’t even apologize to him for all the trouble and losses they caused. As of October 10 he didn’t get from MSC and NSB any information whatsoever, he doesn’t know the condition of his container, its’ whereabouts and even approximate date of recovering the container.
So both questions are answered, as for MSC and NSB business ethics I don’t think other liner majors are much better, if better at all. Their predicaments caused by the irresponsible shippers shipping dangerous goods are understandable, but their absolutely immoral behaviour towards minor clients is not. Shame on you, people.
MSC Flaminia fire claimed one more life
Oct 9: MSC Flaminia fire claimed one more life – a Filipino crew member died on Oct 7 in hospital in Portugal from severe burns he suffered in a fire. An official statement:
During the fire on board of MSC FLAMINIA the 41 - year - old received heavy burns which have been medicated in a specialty hospital for burn wounds in Portugal.
As for the rest, there are absolutely no news except that the AIS being switched off around Oct 2. Vessel may be moved to other place or there is just no need in AIS signal any more, as it was officially announced that MSC Flaminia may be dismantled. No news from cargo owners also, so generally it’s unknown whether all the containers were offloaded and handed over to owners, or offloading still under way, or whatever.
MSC Flaminia still a mystery
Sep 29: German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies published a press-release on Sep 28 with the MSC Flaminia salvage update. Once again it was said that the superstructure is finally, clean and safe. Superstructure was already declared to be clean on Sep 18. Press-release said that 80 undamaged containers were offloaded during the day, and maybe due to the fact that press-release is in German language only, the meaning of it is unclear – is it a daily rate, or just the offload of the day news were released. It is understood from the press-release, that the salvage started offloading undamaged containers from the aft part of the vessel behind the superstructure, not from the fore as it was planned initially. The salvage doesn’t have yet the required facilities to handle the containers, both damaged and undamaged, from the fore section. The meaning of this is simple – damaged or undamaged, the containers in the fore section are contaminated or may be contaminated, therefore requiring a thorough check and special handling. Maybe I miss something, but I didn’t stumble upon any official or unofficial explanation of the situation in general: what’s the level of contamination, what substances were spilled and how hazardous they are, how undamaged containers next to the damaged could be affected by the contamination, and what’s the procedure of handling the undamaged containers – when, to put it short, they will be passed to their owners. Of course there wasn’t (and won’t be, I guess) any explanation, description of the events on board of the vessel when the fire started. How and why those crew members who died or were injured were trapped in a fire, did they suffer from fire only, or from the released hazardous substances, too? Why the crew left the vessel in such a hurry, because they knew there was mortal danger of contamination, because they panic, or what?
On a photo from GCCME website dated Sep 28 the offloading of aft containers under way.
MSC Flaminia lessons. Whom to thank for the disaster.
MSC Flaminia accident has another aspect which is about as important for general public, as the aspect of safety. It’s an aspect of the way major corporations treat minor clients, the bulk of minor clients being general public, or ordinary people. There was an unanimous complaint from the MSC clients about the absolutely inappropriate, abusive way they’ve been treated by the MSC since the beginning of the accident. A quote from the letter of one of minor clients of MSC and NSB, who shipped his goods on MSC Flaminia:
I can attest that the worst part is not either knowing that we might have lost almost everything, or that we might have to wait four or five months to see our stuff if it survived; the worst thing is NOT KNOWING anything at all.
He’s a private person with family goods, but the companies whose goods are loaded on MSC Flaminia, suffer the losses, too, even if their goods are undamaged, just due to the lack of the information. The point is, many clients of MSC already fell victims, not to the fire (their goods may be safe), but to the lack of information only. But look at the manner MSC and NSB treat their clients and public in general – they behave like they don’t have a care in the world, and not without a reason. The reason is a very sound one. They are not afraid of the possible claims filed by minority clients, individuals or small companies. They know they’ll beat them. Such is the manner of all major “players” in any given industry sector, be it liner business or pharmacy, or whatever.
Major corporations strategy towards their clients is very simple. There are big customers, if applying to liner business such customers are the big companies shipping hundreds or thousands containers monthly, and there are minor customers, occasional or regular, with insignificantly small numbers of containers. The big customers are the pets of the majors, they’re treated with utmost attention and care. The minor customers are no less contribution to majors (MSC, or Maersk, or any other else major liner corporation) in volumes (we don’t have statistics to learn the shares of the major and minor customers in general bulk of the liner shipping), but alas, not personally. They’re valued for their bulk, but when taken personally they’re zeros, they’re nothing and may be treated in any way which suits majors best. Which means they can be totally ignored when there is trouble, and written off without as much as excuses, not to mention compensations. Being atomized and absolutely inferior to majors financially and legally, minors don’t have a chance to stand against majors in a court. Minors are defenseless and may be abused by majors with total immunity from any repercussions, and that’s exactly what we witness in MSC Flaminia case.
There are organizations who allegedly defense the rights of the shippers. Let’s look at most well-known such bodies, the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) and the European Shippers Council (ESC). The website of ESC is down as “temporarily disabled”. GSF website is alive and assures visitors, that the main aim of GSF is “representing shippers’ interests”, while the main focus is “to influence commercial developments in the international freight transport industry and the policy decisions of governments and international organisations as they affect shippers and receivers of freight”.
Most prominent and fervent defendant of shippers rights was and I guess, still is, the one “Nicolette van der Jagt, Secretary General, European Shippers’ Council Founding Member Global Shippers Forum (GSF)”. She lashed at liner majors with severe criticism at each opportunity, thanks to her and of course, other politicians’ efforts, liner majors conferences were banned as violating the antimonopoly laws and consumer rights. One of the results was a reduce of freight costs, a good thing for big shippers and seemingly, not a bad thing for minors, too. But only seemingly. For example – trying to earn whenever possible, liner companies hiked all other extra freight costs besides the basic one. If I’m a person or a small company shipping expensive goods, theoretically I can safe myself with high insurance and declared cost of the goods, but in practice I’ll have to pay a fortune in freight. I don’t mind paying extra cost for guaranteed safety of transportation or guaranteed compensation if my goods are destroyed, providing of course, that the extra cost is reasonable. Thanks to ESC and GSF, the cost became unreasonable.
But that’s only one result of GSF and ESC activities, there is another one, the growing risks of the container sea transportation. Major liner companies want accidents and disasters no more than their clients, major or minor. Theoretically or practically, the best and most effective way to ensure the safety of containers loaded on board of liner container ships, is their physical inspection, as thorough as it is technically and economically possible. Ideally all the containers should be physically checked, but it’s hard if possible at all technically, it will seriously hamper the whole business, creating delays and rather huge financial losses – nothing goes without its’ price, you know. Liner companies justly assume that they aren’t the only ones to pay the cost of safety, especially after their profits were greatly reduced thanks to GSF and ESC struggle against conferences and “unjust freight costs”. GSF and ESC think differently and strongly oppose all the attempts of the liner business and bodies responsible for maritime safety, to ensure the container ships safety by enforcing physical inspections of the containers. GSF and ESC slate all such attempts as “unnecessary”, and effectively prevent any measures aimed at ensuring the safety of transportation. Being restricted in their ability to raise the freight, liner companies have to do some real risky things, like accepting all the cargoes they’re offered, even if the goods are dubious from safety point of view. GSF and ESC did their best to make liner transportation as unsafe as possible, and now may congratulate themselves with excellent results in forms of growing number of accidents, plus mass abuse of consumer rights of minor shippers.
GSF and ESC activities understandably, profit the main supporters of those two inglorious bodies, the major shippers – the big corporations like multinational wholesale traders or producers, all those in short, who ship huge volumes of goods on a regular basis. It is them who’re interested first of all, in the low freight costs, even at the expense of the safety. Among all the clients of the liner companies, major shippers are the only ones assured of compensation in case of an accident. Because they’re “dear and valued” customers in a true meaning of this expression, sounding pathetic if not cynical, when publicily addressed to minor customers. We ordinary folks are not “dear” and “valued” for majors, we’re just flock from which majors reap their profits. During all the MSC Flaminia saga GSF and ESC didn’t release any news concerning the accident and consumer rights mass abuse, they looked the other way. So all those minors who suffered losses in MSC Flaminia accident must not forget to thank for their losses not only MSC and NSB, but GSF, ESC and I think, personally Mrs. Nicolette van der Jagt, too. They did all they could for you to suffer losses.
When a minor shipper ships his goods using the services of the liner majors, he then, should be fully aware of consequences in case of an accident and the resulting loss or damage of his goods. He won’t be compensated, and there is no one who’ll defend his rights, however just is his case. It’s like taking a flight – either flight goes safe, or crash, there is nothing a client can do about it once he boards the plane. Minor shipper won’t be heard by all those national and international bodies who’re allegedly defending the rights of the people, human or consumer or any other. He won’t be heard by major media, either. Major media is very effective in building up walls of silence around any problem if the problem concerns the interests politicians, authorities and multinational corporations. As for industry media, if speaking about maritime matters, there are many editions, but not one capable of standing up against major companies and major maritime bodies.
I suppose there is only one way for ordinary people to defend their rights against the widely spread malpractices of multinational corporations and industry majors, and to break the walls of silence, attracting public attention to each rights abuse. People concerned with identical problems have to unite through Internet, not by means of global social networks like Twitter or Facebook, but by means of some specialized websites restricted to specific industries or communities, or problems. Global social networks proved to be just ideal tools for making revolutions, but they’re no good for an evolution. I’m trying to test some ideas on my site, though it’s real hard to do it alone.
I’m thankful to all those who contributed to the MSC Flaminia chronicles by sending letters with information or just support and gratitude, and I apologize to all those whose letters went unanswered, I’m working alone and along with the stories like MSC Flaminia case, I have to go on with my main job, which is to keep going Maritime Bulletin news line and prepare weekly specialized editions for subscribers. Anyone who’d want to share his experience regarding the future development of the MSC Flaminia case, or other related stories or experiences, is welcome.
Thank you all, readers and contributors to the story.
Sep 14 2012
MSC Flaminia is safe. But other container ships are not.
September 11: MSC Flaminia is safely docked in Jade-Weser-Port, but the same can’t be said about all other container ships, either under way or docked. Right now there is another deep-ocean container ship on fire, German-owned, Japan-operated Amsterdam Bridge (see latest news http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1310) – a replica of MSC Flaminia accident. This is not a coincidence, we don’t know the statistics, but taking all the known information together it may be said, that container ships are not safe altogether for the crews of the vessels, for goods on board and therefore, the shippers (owners of cargoes on board), for the environment and for people living in coastal areas and big ports. The main risk originates from the containers loaded with flammable and explosive goods, stalked together with safe containers. What makes the situation especially dangerous and unpredictable, is widely spread practice of many irresponsible (criminal actually) shippers to manifest their dangerous goods as safe. I’ve been told by a stevedoring company operating in one of the biggest Russian ports, that in summer time finding damaged by explosion or fire containers on board of liner container ships is about as regular event, as a thunderstorm. In most cases the goods in such containers were manifested as safe in order to save some $200-300 (Two – Three Hundred) on a container. In most cases the explosions and fire are contained by the container in which the dangerous goods were loaded, at most damaging neighbouring containers. But from time to time explosions and fire in one container spark a major fire.
A good example of rather routine explosion in the container is an accident on board of Maersk Kinloss:
Explosion in container loaded with dangerous aluminum phosphide on board of Maersk Kinloss
July 25, 2012
Boxship Maersk Kinloss arrived to Iliychevsk, Ukraine, Black sea, on July 15 2012 from Konstanza, Romania, with 2082 containers on board, including 1439 transit containers and 643 to be offloaded in Ilyichevsk. On July 17 during offloading operations dockers opened one of the holds and found container with obvious signs of an explosion and fire, container had a dangerous cargo of aluminum phosphide. The top of the container was blown off, sides were bloated, cargo was destroyed. Neighbouring containers were also damaged. An investigation found, that there were three containers on board of the vessel, containing dangerous cargoes of fluoric acid, aluminium phosphide and oxidizer, two of them were stacked in the hold among other containers, which is actually, a violation of safety regulations specifying the transportation of such cargoes. Ilyichevsk emergency services sent an emergency team to handle the remains of the poisonous cargo and check the atmosphere on a vessel, in port and in neighbouring areas for traces of phosphate. The remains of the cargo are to be disposed of in a special dangerous wastes storage. Vessel is still in Ilyichevsk, investigation is under way. Photos from local media show the damaged container, destroyed cargo and chemistry specialist checking the vessel. Boxship Maersk Kinloss IMO 9333022, dwt 84835, capacity 6200 TEU, built 2008, flag UK, manager Maersk.
See photos at http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1113
The abovementioned accident, accidentally, hits the headlines of local media, but in most cases such accidents remain unknown to the public and to many ignorant small shippers, especially individuals. Regular shippers know the game and the risks, but there is nothing they can do about it, either. They take risks as they’re and have to live with it, praying for the best. The liner companies of course, keep such accidents secret as long as there is no leak to media. Most important, they keep statistics secret, so in general we don’t have a slightest idea just how dangerous it all is, and therefore, we can’t assess the risks.
Risks obviously, are not too high, or else we’d have major fire each week, but they don’t seem to be insignificant, either. The situation is going worse, not better, out of simple statistics. The more there are cargoes, the more is the traffic, the more is the risk of a major disaster. Again, the total lack of statistics keeps the public and even experts in the dark, with regards to the dangerous goods themselves – the volumes of hazardous materials shipped in containers, the trends, approximate estimation of the volumes of dangerous goods declared as safe, so on and so forth. Without such statistics, we’re blind, but statistics, if any, are kept in corporations’ safes beyond the public reach.
Major liner carriers definitely don’t want to meddle with the problem unless and until they’ll have to, because understandably, the solution will be anything but cheap. Ironically, for quite a time all major liner companies are proclaiming their commitment to the Green Planet idea, the shipping industry majors lead the pack, so to say, in a great fight against those dreadful greenhouse gas emissions. The liner industry leaders give their full support to the dubious Global Warming campaign, and spend fortunes on designing and building the so-called ECO ships, i.e. ecologically safe and energy effective. But a major disaster with one – just one – deep-ocean container ship somewhere in populated area may overweigh all the harms of all the greenhouse emissions from all the vessels of world merchant marine taken together, because such a disaster may be a disaster of a mass destruction, releasing in sea and atmosphere deadly substances, which will kill every living thing in a vast area, or cause a pandemia, or God knows what else.
The majors are intentionally overlooking an already very serious safety problem of the dangerous goods transportation on board of regular liner container ships, but spare no efforts in fighting the phantom of Global Warming. Can anyone in a sound mind believe the numerous CEOs of major corporations, together with politicians, when they declare their commitment to all the good things in the world against bad ones? Like you know, they have no other cares in this world except the public interests. Nothing in this world can be further apart than the corporate interests and all other interests, and if major liner carriers turned into staunch supporters of a Green Planet idea, it means only one thing – they found ways to make the crusade profitable. The more they yell about the evil in question, the more they profit. If or when they find the way to profit on IMDG safety (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code), liner shipping will be safe in no time. Or they’ll have to make it safe, after some devastating disaster and following public outrage.
The liner majors are not the only ones responsible for the general negative trend in liner transportation safety, nor they are the only ones who are to carry the burden of solving the safety problem. Container transportation of the goods by sea is the cheapest in the world, it’s in fact so cheap, that carriers balance on the verge of recovery costs. Speaking about safety, such situation is potentially very dangerous, because carriers don’t have a room for any extra, especially capital, spendings. Making liner transportation safe is anything but cheap, but are the carriers the only ones who’ll pay for it?
We are happy buying cheap goods produced at low production costs and carried to us at low freight rates, but nothing in this world is one-sided, and nothing comes cheap in the end. We pay in full, sooner or later, in this or that way. In our case, we pay by risking a possible disaster of a mass destruction scale, or on smaller scale, by risking to lose the goods we ship without any compensation.
To be continued…
A long way to safety...
Two latest pics of a final stage of a towage from German’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies website, more full-scale photos to be found at http://www.havariekommando.de/presse/gallery.php.html?file=bildergalerie/2012_08_20/index.html&oid=6515&tsize=1
Flying Focus published photos of MSC Flaminia when she was towed off Rotterdam on Sep 6, link to all photos in full scale http://koopvaardij.blogspot.nl/
NSB photos published on Sep 5. Notice one curious thing in all three photos – the view of a middle section damaged by fire is carefully avoided.
MSC Flaminia is a big chemical and toxic floating bomb
August 29: MSC Flaminia is actually, a big chemical, toxic and miscellaneous dangerous substances floating bomb. No wonder crew fled the vessel, no wonder EU States fear MSC Flaminia just short of her being a nuclear device ready to explode. Below is the list of the dangerous goods which are (were) on board of MSC Flaminia. the good news are, there are no radioactive materials and no explosives there. The bad news are, nearly all the list of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is present, with some exceptions.
Pics from a video by Quest - France, published on August 14.
Photos taken from air and published by Quest - France. NSB's last photos were dated July 22 or July 23.
MSC Flaminia on fire in mid-Atlantic after explosion, crew evacuated, 1 missing 4 injured
At 10:07 July 14 2012 Falmouth Coastguard received the relayed mayday broadcast from boxship MSC Flaminia reporting that the crew on board had abandoned the vessel, says Maritime and Coastguard Agency UK (MCA UK) in a press-release. Crew on board a container vessel were forced to abandon their ship after an explosion and subsequent fire in a cargo hold mid Atlantic.
Falmouth Coastguard broadcast an alert to all vessels in the area and the nearest vessel which could provide assistance was the crude oil tanker VLCC DS Crown, which immediately changed course to intercept the MSC Flaminia. Six other merchant vessels also proceeded to the location to help with the search and rescue operation but were more than six hours from the location. Rescue helicopters do not have the endurance required to attend an incident of this nature because the vessel is approximately 1,000 miles from land mid way between the UK and Canada.
DS Crown arrived on scene to confirm that the MSC Flaminia was still burning and recovered 24 people from a lifeboat and a liferaft. Four crew had suffered injuries. The injured crew have been transferred to the vessel MSC Stella which will take them to the Azores. One crew member is missing. The MSC Flaminia had 25 people on board. Crew of the MSC Flaminia include German, Polish and Filipino nationals. Weather conditions on scene were winds force 3-4 with a one metre swell.
Comment and details of the involved vessels:
Obviously explosion took place in container or containers with flammable or combustible cargo, once again highlighting the risks caused by wrong cargo manifest issued by shippers. No doubt after this accident with tremendous financial losses there will be renewed industry demand to ensure the safety of the loaded containers and increase responsibility of the shippers. Last known big fire on board of deep ocean boxship took place in March 2006, the famous “Hyundai Fortune” accident in the Indian ocean (pics of Hyundai Fortune fire below) cost some $300-500 million.
MSC Flaminia last known position at 13.07.2012 17:48 was in 47 52N 30 44W. Vessel was en route from Charleston US East Coast to Antwerpen Belgium, ETA July 17.
VLCC DS Crown (ex Front Crown) IMO 9179646, dwt 311176, built 1999, flag Bahamas, manager FRONTLINE MANAGEMENT AS. Crew presumably Russian-Ukrainian-Filipino.
Boxship MSC Stella IMO 9279989, dwt 85680, capacity 6724 TEU, built 2004, flag Panama, manager MSC MEDITERRANEAN SHIPPING CO.
MSC Flaminia adrift billowing thick smoke, one more death
As of morning July 16 MSC Flaminia is drifting in mid-Atlantic in 47 52N 30 44W area with a large plume of smoke seen from passing vessels. One of the four injured crew died from heavy burns on board of MSC Stella, the remaining three were taken to Azores by helicopter, one of them being treated in intensive care. There were 25 people on board, 23 crew (5 German, 3 Polish and 15 Filipino) and 2 passengers. Reportedly, two tugs with firefighting equipment are on the way to a burning vessel, ETA July 17 afternoon. Manager of the vessel, German company NSB Niederelbe just can’t explain what happened and will stay in dark until specialists will reach MSC Flaminia. Crew said fire started in hold number four, reportedly some containers were loaded with combustible bleaching agent calcium hypochlorite. The hull and P and I insurer for the vessel is Swedish Club, which already suffered a major loss from boxship Rena disaster in New Zealand.
MSC Flaminia drifting east. Is fire that bad?
July 17 2012: Reportedly Smit signed a salvage contract with German company NSB Niederelbe, which is operating boxship MSC Flaminia, and dispatched to drifting vessel salvage tugs Fairmount Expedition and Anglian Sovereign, ETA to the distressed vessel July 17 afternoon. There is no recent information on the condition of the vessel, except vessel’s position and one photo published by Trade Winds, photo was taken by the crew of VLCC DS Crown. The version of calcium hypochlorite being the cause of the fire looks to be dumped, as NSB Niederelbe checked all the cargo manifests and didn’t find calcium hypochlorite at all. Trade Winds came up with calcium hypochlorite cargo as the main culprit judging obviously, from another accident with another boxship of the NSB Niederelbe company back in 1997: “NSB Niederelbe’s 1,600-teu Contship France (built 1993) – now the Marinos - sustained serious damage to both hull and cargo in 1997 in an explosion and fire attributed to calcium hypochlorite”.
All the musings about the cause of the fire and explosion at present stage are just that, musings, as long as there are hundreds combustible items around, and just one such an item, wrongly (most probably, intentionally in order to save the money) manifested and loaded, could trigger the disaster. Looking at the only photo available of MSC Flaminia on fire, one can’t but feel some doubt as to the scale of the fire, is it such bad to give up all the attempts of fighting the fire, and abandon the vessel? It’s easy to say of course, not being there, but still, let’s look at photos of Hyundai Fortune on fire and compare to the photo of MSC Flaminia. there is a full report of Hyundai Fortune disaster with photo gallery, report is in Russian, but fortunately, photos are not - http://www.odin.tc/disaster/disaster4.asp.
The difference of the scale of the fire is just striking. MSC Flaminia fire seems to be well to the fore, engine seems to be undamaged, so vessel may maintain some speed enough to keep smoke off the superstructure and the stacks aft from the burning ones, so crew could fight off fire going aft. It’s a preposition of course, but that’s what one may think looking at the only small-scale photo we have by now. There is a chance then, that things aren’t that bad and fire will damage the restricted number of containers and cargoes in them.
The crew abandoned MSC Flaminia in position 48-13N 027-59W, later vessel was reported to drift to position 48-13N 027-56W, in eastern direction.
MSC Flaminia remains generally intact. Will it affect the insurance?
July 18 2012: On July 17 salvage tug Fairmount Expedition and boxship Hanjin Ottawa of the NSB Niederelbe arrived to the scene, meanwhile MSC Flaminia continued her drift in NE direction, being in position 48-59N 025-44W at 20:00 16.07.12. The general overview of the MSC Flaminia and photos taken showed that the superstructure with engine room and forecastle are intact and not affected by the fire. Second salvage tug Anglian Sovereign is on the way, ETA unclear but not later than July 19, it seems. Nothing definite yet, vessel may be towed after putting fire under control, or just sail under her own power.
The question remains open – was the evacuation of the crew all that necessary? Of course all the injured crew and passengers should be evacuated, as well as non-essential crew, but the rest as it seems, could stay on the board trying to fight fire or at least, restrict its expansion. No doubt the Swedish Club will find such an assumption very exciting, because the difference between the cost of actual damages and damages suffered in case crew stayed on board may be a very big one.
Again, look at the photos of MSC Flaminia and the photos of Hyundai Fortune, and feel the difference. See latest photo of MSC Flaminia and map at http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1082 Boxship Hanjin Ottawa IMO 9200718, dwt 68834, capacity 5618 TEU, built 2000, flag Germany, manager NSB NIEDERELBE, en route to Suez but directed to MSC Flaminia to assess the situation.
MSC Flaminia, second explosion. Swedish Club got a strong card up its sleeve.
July 19 2012: Early in the morning July 17 boxship Hanjin Ottawa reached MSC Flaminia, followed by salvage tug Fairmount Expedition, said NSB Niederelbe in its’ press release dated July 17. Second engineer of the Hanjin Ottawa was transferred to the salvage tug to reactivate MSC Flaminia’s firefighting system later on, during the salvage operation. After the transfer Hanjin Ottawa resumed her initial voyage, and headed for Suez Canal. NSB Niederelbe frankly admitted, that “neither superstructure, engine room, the stern section nor the forecastle of the ship are directly affected by the fire or the explosion”, which speaks much in their favour. Latest news published by German media on July 18 said one more explosion occurred on board of MSC Flaminia in fire area, when firefighting was already under way, which is the second explosion we know of, with the first one taken place shortly after the fire broke up in July 14. Let’s look at the latest photos, published by NSB Niederelbe on their web-site, and the only one available photo dated July 14 or 15, which was taken from the board of VLCC tanker DS Crown and published by Trade Winds in a scale requiring atomic microscope. On the first photo fire seemed to be restricted by several stacks, vessel is on even keel, big letters MSC on the hull are clear and undamaged. On latest photos fire seems to spread in aft direction, vessel developed a starboard list, letters MSC are smeared, meaning fire went down to holds, too. Still, be the containers aft of the initial fire loaded with flammable goods in some big quantities, no doubt upper deck in front of the superstructure, or the whole vessel, would be engulfed in fire by now. Let’s look, once again, at photos of Hyundai Fortune – now, that’s what we call “the vessel ablaze”.
Taking all together, it’s impossible now to reject the obvious – part of the crew could stay on board and fight the fire, or at least try to prevent it from spreading. There wasn’t much risk in staying aboard, if any. Weather is calm, crew could keep life boat standing by in case situation would turn nasty. Being in area with rather vivid traffic, the crew wouldn’t wait long for the rescue.
It’s too early to speculate over the results of future investigations and evaluations, but one thing is already clear, Swedish Club got a strong card up its sleeve, with MSC Flaminia questionable abandonment. Second salvage tug Anglian Sovereign is expected to be on the scene sometime late on July 19, reportedly a third salvage vessel is contracted, soon to set sail, or already under way.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 19 2012
Firefighting operations at the MSC FLAMINIA were resumed yesterday afternoon. Thanks to continuous cooling a further expansion of the fire could be prevented. It can be observed that superstructure, engine room, the stern section and the forecastle of the ship have all not been affected by the second explosion. According to the salvage captain the hull of the vessel is intact. Due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water a list of approximately 8-10 degrees has occurred. The second tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN is expected this evening. The third tugboat will reach the site of the incident on Saturday at noon. Salvage experts currently plan to board MSC FLAMINIA via the deployed emergency ladder and reactivate the firefighting systems. Experts estimate that the firefighting operations could take some weeks. Afterwards, MSC FLAMINIA is supposed to be towed to Europe for repairs.
MSC Flaminia latest news. NSB Niederelbe staff accuses me of being a cynic and a provocateur.
July 20: I received an e-mail from a person claiming by his sign to be the employee of NSB Niederelbe. I received an e-mail from a person claiming by his sign to be the employee of NSB Niederelbe. I won’t name the person, who’s a specialist either of Russian or Ukrainian nationality, unless it will be necessary. Letter written in Russian is short – author accuses me of being an ignorant journalist, troublemaker looking for scandals, turning Maritime Bulletin into a tabloid. He’s a professional, and he can prove that master’s decision to abandon the vessel was absolutely justified, under the circumstances. He says that MSC Flaminia fire and Hyundai Fortune fire are not to be compared, because of the big difference in their design and structure. He calls me a cynic and a provocateur, speculating on a disaster which claimed two lives, and on insurance matters, which are absolutely not my or anyone’s, except insurer and owner, business. Letter doesn’t contain any proofs or facts, it just offers me to shut up and mind my own business. Letter was sent from a public mail service, not from corporate address, though I’m sure it’s genuine.
Well, in my reply, I invited him to prove his point via Maritime Bulletin, being ready to publish all the proofs and facts he has. There is one big fact though, which is hard to be disputed, fact is very much afloat and drifting in the Atlantic, notwithstanding the dramatic difference between MSC Flaminia and Hyundai Fortune. As for my cynicism impersonated in my speculations about the details of the accident which took two lives, I wonder then, why the Italians are so cynical in interrogating the Captain of Costa Concordia, or Russians in interrogating the owners of the river liner Bulgaria? Let’s agree and accept as a moral rule, then, that no questions are to be asked if the accident turned into tragedy and claimed lives. I’m not a boy or an ignorant journalist to be confused and dismayed with such a “professional” attack, on the contrary, I’m enraged. Generally speaking, it’s an attempt to show me my place, to correct my politically incorrect behavior. Why don’t I behave myself like any other politically correct, decent and respectable industry media, writing decent things in a decent way and not asking indecent questions unless permitted?
Because I’m tired of this “correct” shit from the times I was living in Soviet Union, that’s why. There was one life in media, and absolutely another life we were living. And that’s exactly what I witness nowadays in shipping and in life in general. I’m netting industry media every day trying to fish out shipping news, but my net disappoints me with a very meager catch of mostly corporate news – who grabbed what, bagged where, and inked when. Corporate news are mixed with news from high places, what new rules and regulations were worked out and accepted by main maritime organizations, with no questions asked, least doubts or critics. All in all, when I read industry media, I watch one shipping, one world. When I speak to my fellow seamen, or to ship owners I know, I find the shipping to be quite another world, not related to official shipping in just any way. How is it possible? The problems which really bother seafarers and small – middle sized ship owners are non-existent, if we restrict our shipping knowledge with media industry news and IMO/BIMCO… press-releases. Still, media is in general, politically correct and well liked by majors’ CEOs. And my Maritime Bulletin is not.
Speaking about things in general, where do we head with all that cultivated by media and politicians righteousness and political correctness? There’s a 7-11 mini-mart near my home, with a poor Thai family occupying the pavement near the entrance to the shop all day through. There are about 6 or 7 children varying in age from 3-4 to 7-8 years old, and their mother, who runs a wheeled grill stand, cooking and selling seafood Thai delicatessen from early morning till late into the night. Children are running around or sleeping on the mat laid out on the pavement. They are not hungry – Thailand is not the country where you may find starving people, but they are not spoiled by small children’s joys either, like Twix or Mars, or M&M. The place I reside in is a very popular Thai resort, full of wealthy Bangkokians any given day. One day I noticed the looks those pavement children were given to the mostly obese children of the upper classes leaving the 7-11 with heaps of sweets, I just couldn’t stand it, I returned to the shop, bought the whole bag of all sweets there were, and gave the bag to the children. I didn’t wait for any “savadee” or “kapkunkap” (thanks), instinctively I just handed the bag to the children, jumped onto my motorbike and speeded away, fearing somebody would get me wrong and nail me as a paedophile on the hunt. I found myself thinking, that the best way to demonstrate my normalcy towards children nowadays is to kick those children out of my way so that everybody around would be assured I’m a decent person with flawless behavior and very nice manners.
Are we going crazy, turning everything upside down, calling black white, and white black, creating fictitious industry and fictitious morals, and thinking the fictitious world will replace someday the real one? Are we really supposed to believe, that industry news are just that, some major companies grabbing, bagging and inking, and there is nothing else worth mentioning? Are we supposed to believe into ship owners imbecile glee when they throw fortunes into new “eco” designed vessels, being so glad the Earth will be saved from the climate warming? Are we to have no doubts in those new eco designs, even if we stumble upon a study saying that LNG as a ship fuel is ten times more greenhouse effective and therefore, ten times more harmful to dear old Earth, than heavy oil? Or when we find another study saying that the produce of the distillates in requested for shipping quantities will be more harmful for the nature, than using heavy oil? Are we to believe many other things public media and industry media are publishing, without any shred of doubt?
Maritime Bulletin is not your respectable, politically correct maritime edition, and I dearly hope, won’t ever be, unless the times will come when writing the truth and calling things what they are will again become stylish, replacing the grey spider web of the contemporary too decent and too obese with political correctness media.
July 20 2012
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 20 2012
As the firefighting operations at MSC FLAMINIA continue, the second firefighting tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN arrived this morning at the site of the incident. The third, CARLO MAGNO, is expected on site Saturday noon. After the arrival of the second firefighting tugboat, a party of four salvage specialists has boarded MSC FLAMINIA. The team was able to reactivate the ship’s own fire fighting system. It is now additionally supporting the firefighting operations of both tugboats. Due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water the ship is listing by 8.5 degrees.
The extent of the damage onboard our MSC FLAMINIA is considerable. Cargo holds 4 - where the fire originated from -, 5 and 6 are demolished. According to salvage specialists cargo hold 7, which is located adjacent to the superstructure, is not on fire. The superstructure itself, the engine room as well as bow and stern – including the steering gear – are all not affected by the fire.
MSC Flaminia latest news. Owner of high-value luxury goods on board can’t find them.
July 21: Yesterday July 20 I was asked for a help or assistance by a company whose containers happened to be on board of MSC Flaminia. It’s a trading company in one of the former USRR republics, guys are shipping high-value luxury goods in several containers, and now feel themselves on low frying, too. They’ve been trying to find out exact location of the containers on board of the vessel, but failed. Not NSB Niederelbe, nor regional MSC office were able to tell them whether their containers are stacked in risky zone or not.
Find below, after photos of MSC Flaminia on fire, photos of another fire/explosion disasters, which took place in Indian ocean in years 2002 and 2006. The Hanjin Pennsylvania disaster 2002: Fire started after the explosion when vessel was off Sri Lanka, 19 crew rescued, 1 died, 1 went missing. Vessel simply burned out after 4 days of blaze. The Hyundai Fortune disaster in March 2006, the famous “Hyundai Fortune” accident in the Indian ocean was also a financial disaster with allegedly, some $300-500 million losses.
MSC Flaminia latest. Vessel seems to be under tow. Crystal balling again.
July 23: Operator of the vessel, NSB Niederelbe, published latest news on July 20, no updates since then. But judging from latest known positions (with 10 hours interval), speed and course, MSC Flaminia seems to be already under tow proceeding at a speed of 5 – 5.5 knots, direction 93 – 95 degrees. It’s about 600 miles to nearest ports in Biscay or UK, some 5 days sailing, with ETA July 26 – but maybe salvors’ll (Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contrac signed with Smit) manage to put MSC Flaminia under way under own power, and if so, the arrival will be much sooner.
Trade Winds went crystal balling again, this time trying to guess how many containers are burnt. The first crystal balling was devoted to the cause of the fire, and abandoned after it became clear, that it’s too wild guess presently, with literally hundreds of dangerous items as potential culprit. There are 2876 containers on board of MSC Flaminia, according to Trade Winds. TradeWinds “earlier estimated that cargo in 700 to 1,000 containers on the vessel had been lost but new images point to 1,200 to 1,500 boxes as badly burnt”.
Trade Winds doesn’t look to have a cargo plan, if otherwise, there won’t be any guessing – just quote an exact number of containers in fire area limited for now by holds 4, 5 and 6, and that will do finely. A 1200-1500 guess looks to be an exaggeration – three holds are in fire zone, with total 2876 containers on board divided between nine holds, half of them to be in just three holds is too daring an assumption. NSB Niederelbe or MSC, or whoever is responsible for the cargo, is neglecting the shippers, many of whom are slowly going mad with anxiety, because they don’t know where their containers are stacked. Maybe somebody will advise or correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not possible to publish the list of containers (with numbers) stacked in fire zone? At least owners of the cargo will know more or less for sure, whether there is nothing yet to worry about, or they may say goodbye to their goods and start thinking about insurance and compensation.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 23 2012
In the evening July 20 firefighting tugboat FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION (Fairmount Marine) has begun to tow MSC FLAMINIA toward Europe. Simultaneously, firefighting tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN (L.P. Knight) continues to cool the fire. The tugboat CARLO MAGNO (Augustea S.A.) accompanies the group on standby. MSC FLAMINIA’s own firefighting system is especially cooling the area in front of the superstructure. Due to the extinguishing water and damaged cargo, MSC FLAMINIA is listing by 10 degrees.
MSC Flaminia latest. Shippers requests go unanswered. Why?
July 24: NSB confirmed that MSC Flaminia is under tow, starting July 20 evening. Latest known position is 48.33N 017.03W 22.07.2012 17:20, speed 5 knots course 91 deg. Meanwhile, I received one more letter from a worried shipper complaining he can’t get an answer from NSB or whoever, with regards to the exact location of his container. Here it is:
My family’s household goods are on this vessel. Despite my giving NSB the container number, they still cannot tell me if it was in holds 4,5,or 6. Is there a diagram or blueprint of this vessel? I am sure anyone with goods on board are very frustrated with the lack of information.
I in my turn, was trying to find somewhere MSC Flaminia blueprint, but failed. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company official website provides a minimum of information on its vessels. Is there no way to find out where this or that container is stacked in situations like this, or is it just MSC and NSB failure? They must have a cargo plan, and they must have a contingency plan or scheme to deal with clients, unless not answering to clients requests is a plan, and the major liner company just doesn’t have any other. Or maybe, they don’t want to upset shippers and accidentally, give them too early start to proceed with claims?
Industry media is keeping silence and simply re-prints the NSB press-releases, doing it very professionally, without grammar errors or misplaced commas. Is it still not politically correct to start asking questions, or industry media simply don’t know what to ask and don’t understand, what’s all about?
MSC Flaminia fire. Shippers are kept in dark intentionally.
It’s almost impossible, actually, to get a compensation for damaged or destroyed cargo from a major liner carrier.
I received a letter from a man who’s engaged in stevedoring business, shipping containers across Atlantic on a regular basis. He wrote about the major carriers practice in cases of cargo loss or damage. He’s Russian and letter was written in Russian, it’s my translation with all possible flaws, but I hope I managed to deliver the main ideas and facts.
The problem of compensating containerized cargoes damaged or lost during the transportation is a big headache for many shippers, mostly small and middle-sized, not to mention individuals shipping their private goods maybe, once in a lifetime. Not many people know all the hazards and risks involved, until their containers get into trouble while on board of liner majors. All the liner companies appeal in case of a dispute, originated by a cargo loss or damage, to the standard BL terms and conditions, printed on the backside of the BL. In accordance with these terms, financial responsibility of the carrier can’t exceed the cost of the freight, but if owner declares the value of the goods and value far exceeds general freight rate, then, the rate he’ll be charged with, will be exorbitant. If the container is damaged or destroyed by for example, fire, then it’s up to carrier to offload the remnants in any port carrier finds suitable or convenient, and at best carrier will compensate the difference between total freight cost, and actual cost of actual delivery. Carrier will do everything possible to prove, that the container was damaged due to force majeure, to avoid paying the compensation, and only in most undisputable cases of carrier’s fault carrier may accept the reclamation.
It’s almost impossible, actually, to get a compensation from a major liner carrier. For small or middle sized shipper (all the more so for an individual) the chance is close to nil, only those with big container traffic, say several hundred containers shipped monthly, can count on compensation. Even then, carriers are doing all they can to avoid monetary compensation, offering instead rate discount, or a yearly contract at a very attractive freight rate.
In case of a fire all the claims are re-addressed to the initial culprit, i.e. the owner of the inflammable or explosive goods which caused explosions and fire on the vessel during the voyage. In order to save on freight, many shippers don’t declare dangerous goods, and such a malpractice is already a problem. Well, as a rule, it’s almost impossible to get a compensation from the offender, as he’s most probably, a small company which just don’t have capital enough to cover the tremendous losses.
As for MSC Flaminia fire and panicked clients who can’t get the information about their containers – not, mind you, the condition of their containers, but just technical information about the exact location of the containers on board of the vessel – well, it’s obvious, that the carrier, namely MSC, is hurriedly carrying out an investigation as to the cause of the fire, and won’t reveal any information about the containers until vessel will reach the port. Carrier is trying to minimize the possible losses which may be incurred by possible claims, taking into account all the aspects and circumstances of the fire and following developments, including dubious evacuation of the crew and as a result, uncontrolled spread of the fire during the three days of the derelict vessel’s drift in the ocean.
MSC Flaminia present position, some 260 miles off Brest
July 25: MSC Flaminia is proceeding under tow of salvage tug Fairmount Expedition with Anglian Sovereign and Carlo Magno tugs proceeding along on a standby, at 01:30 UTC July 25 caravan was in position 48.20N 011.12W (some 260 nm West of Brest) on course 90-93 deg speed about 4 knots. Presumably salvage team will board MSC Flaminia on July 25, it’s possible, that the vessel may resume sailing under own power and arrive to yet unknown port much sooner than it is expected now (July 27 at present speed).
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 24 2012
According to salvage experts on site, the fire onboard MSC FLAMINIA is under control since yesterday afternoon. The tugboat ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN is constantly monitoring temperatures onboard the vessel via a laser thermometer and is ready to resume cooling if necessary.
Due to thick fog the salvage team is currently unable to board MSC FLAMINIA. As soon as visibility improves, a salvage team will go onboard to check each container individually and extinguish any discovered fires. Only after this procedure MSC FLAMINIA will receive the permission to make a port call. It is currently not concluded which port the vessel will call next as this is still under review.
MSC FLAMINIA is still towed by FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION, with ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN und CARLO MAGNO on standby. The vessel still lists by approximately 10 degrees due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water.
MSC Flaminia and now Maersk Kinloss accidents are not just accidents, but a wide-spread malpractice
July 26: I received yet one more letter from one more hapless shipper with goods on board of MSC Flaminia. He as well as others can’t get any information about his goods from either MSC or NSB, and he considers such an attitude as a criminal act. He has his own ideas as for the reason crew abandoned MSC Flaminia, and they seem to be very convincing in light of another accident which happened several days ago on board of the Maersk Kinloss in Black sea (see Explosion in container loaded with dangerous aluminum phosphide on board of Maersk Kinloss http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1113)
All those accidents taken together, make us to believe (not assume, but just that, believe), that explosions and fire, that the goods destroyed or damaged on board of boxships operated by liner majors, are not accidents, but in fact, already a wide-spread practice. It’s practice of endangering ships, crews and goods, and abusing the clients.
By now I have been contacted by three indignant shippers, one of them is already going to sue the carrier. I suppose there are dozens of others. I invite all those who have reason to believe their rights and privileges were already abused, write to me the details firstname.lastname@example.org and I in my turn, will hand all the materials over to company or individuals, who’ll try to organize some kind of collective claim.
A letter from a Dutch company (I don't publish the name of the company until specially asked):
We are a Dutch company having container on board of the MSC flaminia and are very upset about the fact that no information is given. We experience this as a criminal act cause we think we have the right to know where we stand so we can act. We don't understand why they won't inform us better, we have trouble enough due to this fire and when we ask for the location of the container to caculate the chance of lost we only get answers like "we don't know where your container is located"... this upsets us, do they think we come out of an egg or so? do they seriously try to tell us that they just load a ship and see where they end up or so? What is this for crap? We and many others have damage enough, a bit more information would help taking the right steps for the moment cq to decide what to do.
But we understand, this seems to be a smelly story, cause if you have nothing to hide why wouldn't you inform your customers?
It brings us to the point "smelly", the captain knows exactly what 'dangerous goods' are loaded on the ship. Obviously there are goods on board which shouldn't be on board or where not loaded properly or in the wrong area? calciumhypochlorite for example is only supposed to be loaded on the decks under special conditions (needs to stay cool and ventilated!!!!!) or is it fireworks or worse? why else would the captain (a very experienced and respected sailor) abandon ship within a few hours after the fire started? why didn't they activate the ships own fire installation? Doesn't a captain abandon ship as the very last person in row or are all the captains now adays cowereds? Or did this captain get orders to leave the ship asap before it explods or did he himself decide to leave the ship cause he knew what was loaded which was very dangerous? How can you leave a ship like this, worth hundreds of millions, floading in the middle of the atlantic without crew, without a captain???? If this isn't smelly than we probably do came out of an egg...
it's just saving time to probably get ridd of as much evidence as possible and getting away of their responsibilities!
besides all the problems caused by this acciddent our thougts go to the wounded and the families of the missing and died sailors, we wish them all the best with these losses and hope that the carrier will at least take good responsibility for them all!
MSC Flaminia in trouble again?
July 26: MSC Flaminia seems to be in some kind of trouble again. During the day July 25 the convoy was on rather erratic move, dropping the speed nearly to full stop, changing courses to opposite and back to generally eastern direction, latest known position is timed 25.07.12 14:39 UTC at 48.16N 010.37W, with no data since then. NSB didn’t publish any updates on its’ website, either. Looks like there’s trouble brewing again, and maybe the letter I received from one more distressed shipper, and recent accident with boxship Maersk Kinloss (see Maritime Bulletin news), explains the character of the possible emergency.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
No news since July 24 2012
MSC Flaminia proceeding at twice lower speed than claimed
July 27: At 26.07.2012 16:48 convoy was in position 48.15N 009.26W, moving on course 60 deg at a speed 3.5 knots. NSB said MSC Flaminia is towed to UK waters at a speed of some 4 knots. But in more than 24 hours interval between known positions at 25.07.2012 14:39 and at 26.07.2012 16:48 convoy sailed less than 50 miles, which means the average speed of the convoy was less than 2 knots. Maybe because the speed was reduced during boarding of the rescue team, maybe there are some other reasons.
Latets news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 26 2012
MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs is currently located 170 nautical miles off the coast of the UK and progresses at a speed of four knots. Due to damaged cargo and extinguishing water, the vessel is listing by 11 degrees. After the prevailing fog of the last days lifted, a team of firefighting experts was able to board MSC FLAMINIA yesterday. However, a closer inspection of the cargo holds was not possible due to the ongoing generation of heat. The ship’s own firefighting system was switched off. Overall, the situation onboard MSC FLAMINIA has improved. The emission of smoke from cargo holds 4 and 5 has declined significantly. Nevertheless, hotspots inside of individual containers should still be reckoned with. Today a team of firefighting experts will again go onboard MSC FLAMINIA. It is yet unsure when a one-by-one inspection of containers can commence. This inspection aims at eliminating any smouldering fires inside of containers.
A permission to enter a sheltered coastal area will be decided upon by British authorities in the coming days.
MSC Flaminia and tugs stealthing into English Channel with MSC Flaminia going under own power?
July 28: Latest NSB press-release is dated July 26, no news since then – weekend plus Olympic Games, maybe? No time for trivialities? AIS data of three salvage tugs and MSC Flaminia give a lot to think about. MSC Flaminia, Fairmount Expedition amd Anglian Sovereign simply disappeared from July 26 – July 27 morning. Tug Carlo Magno last position at 28.07.2012 02:06 UTC was 49.25N 005.43W (36 nm SSE of Land’s End, Cornwall), speed 10.2 (!) knots, course 65 degrees – heading straight into English Channel. Unless Carlo Magno is on a scout mission sent ahead to look for bad guys, or is relieved from the operation, it means all the vessels are proceeding at about the same speed, and that’s impossible unless MSC Flaminia is proceeding under own power. There is some kind of vagueness in latest NSB press-release, hinting at such a possibility. What it means is clear - MSC Flaminia when abandoned, was not just seaworthy, MSC Flaminia was under way and capable of sailing under own power. It’s really weird! AIS of all vessel except MSC Flaminia gives ETA to somewhere in South England as afternoon July 28.
MSC Flaminia circling around off UK, tug Carlo Magno berthed in Falmouth
July 29: Salvage tug Carlo Magno left the operation for unknown reason and arrived Falmouth July 28, and presently is berthed in the port. So yesterday’s assumptions were wrong, MSC Flaminia is under tow or whatever, last known position is 49.00N 008.49W at 28.07.2012 09:32, speed 1.6 knots, speed 282 deg. Convoy could already reach some safety place in UK, why do they circle around is anyone’s guess. On Monday NSB will enlighten us on the latest developments.
MSC Flaminia and tugs drifting off UK. Carlo Magno back in the game?
July 30: MSC Flaminia is drifting, last known position is 49.00N 008.49W at 28.07.2012 09:32. Salvage tug Carlo Magno it seems, is back in the game, leaving Falmouth and steaming presently to presumably, MSC Flaminia, being at 29.07.2012 19:46 in position 49.28N 006.25W, Course 248 Speed 10.7. Maybe vessel was refueling, but most probably, she loaded in Falmouth some materials, spare parts or whatever else, required for the salvage operation. If Carlo Magno is returning to the operation, then, some people had to board the tug in Falmouth to go to MSC Flaminia – specialist, some of the crew, or both. Why do MSC Flaminia and tugs keep away from UK waters is at present, impossible to explain. Maybe situation is worse than they say in press-releases. Maybe UK authorities want a guarantee MSC Flaminia won’t turn into full-scale disaster being in UK waters. Maybe company still tries to sort out the containers on board in order to minimize losses. Maybe all of it.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 29 2012
MSC FLAMINIA and the accompanying group of tugboats have assumed a waiting position approximately 100 nautical miles off the British coast. While the team of firefighting experts is onboard MSC FLAMINIA, the vessel is not towed. Today, a team of firefighting experts has again boarded MSC FLAMINIA. It is yet unsure when a one-by-one inspection of containers can commence. This inspection aims at eliminating any smoldering fires inside of containers. Firefighting and shipbuilding experts on site are among other things assessing the stability of the vessel. Overall, the situation onboard MSC FLAMINIA continues to improve. According to firefighting experts, almost no smoke generation can be observed from cargo holds 4 and 5. Nevertheless, hotspots inside of individual containers should still be reckoned with. A permission to enter a sheltered coastal area will be decided upon by authorities in the coming days. Once the vessel has arrived at a so-called “sheltered area”, a secure sea area close to the shore, further, more thorough investigations can be continued.
MSC Flaminia moving from land into the ocean. Crew restricted in contacts.
July 31: MSC Flaminia with salvage tugs drifting vicinity 48.00N 010.00W as of 30.7.2012 00:00 UTC, moving from nearest land into the ocean, which is just unexplainable by conventional approaches unless something is going on in there, of what we don’t know anything about. I may be wrong but somehow I feel MSC Flaminia is capable of sailing under own power, and the delay and very strange movements are caused by nothing else but actions deemed to be necessary for reducing future financial losses and claims.
Meanwhile, I was informed, that the rescued crew of MSC Flaminia was restricted in contacts, especially with media. It was said “they’re escorted”. There are other very unpleasant news for the carrier which I can’t yet publish without the permission from the source.
MSC Flaminia heading into the Atlantic. News about containers.
August 1: MSC Flaminia and tugs keep moving into the Atlantic, and it is not drift, they’re moving in SSW direction at a speed of some 2 plus knots. NSB said they’re moving further ocean because of deteriorating weather, which is rather unusual way to stay off trouble. I was informed by a knowledgeable source that at least 40% of all containers on board are sound and undamaged, though some cargo in some of the containers may be damaged by smoke or by water during firefighting. The fire extended a little in the stack loaded on No. 3 hold, but No. 2 hold or the deck containers were not directly affected by fire.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, July 31 2012
Since yesterday evening the team of firefighting experts is unable to go onboard MSC FLAMINIA due to bad weather conditions. In the coming days a further deterioration of the weather is predicted. Therefore, MSC FLAMINIA and the group of tugboats have pulled out of the 200 mile zone and maintain a position approximately 200 miles off the British coast. According to the salvage team on site the fire in cargo holds 4, 5 and 6 has been extinguished. However, smoke is visible above cargo hold 7 and the temperatures in this area are rising. MSC FLAMINIA is still listing by 10 degrees.
A decision to enter a sheltered coastal area has not yet been made but is expected in the coming days.
MSC Flaminia keep moving into the Atlantic in southern direction
August 2: MSC Flaminia and salvage tugs keep moving in southern direction into the Atlantic, last known position at 31.07.2012 was 18:00 47.00N 011.15W, average speed during 24 hours ending 18:00 July 31 was around 1.5 knot. What’s the reason for moving deep into the ocean? Weather conditions dictate safest and most convenient course and speed? Maybe. No NSB press-release during August 1.
MSC Flaminia keep moving into Atlantic. France environmentalists fear the worst.
August 3: MSC Flaminia and tugs keep moving into Atlantic, at 01.08.2012 18:00 UTC they were in position 46.35N 011.35W, advancing in southern direction at an average speed just above 1 knot and sailing some 26 miles in 24 hours from July 31 18:00 till August 1 18:00. No press-release from NSB sincel July 31. Quest – France on August 1 published a photo of MSC Flaminia taken from air recently. France environmentalists fear that the vessel may sink in the Atlantic, is it just an assumption, or do they know something we don’t know? They insist vessel should be moved to nearest safety haven in order to avoid possible ecological disaster. It’s impossible to believe that owner decided to intentionally sink the vessel, unless there is something on board we don’t know anything about. Still, environmentalists fears seem to be exaggerated.
MSC Flaminia and tugs still move on into Atlantic in quest for a fine weather
August 4: MSC Flaminia and tugs still move on into Atlantic, steering more to west, in general SW direction. During 36 hours interval between two known positions (01.8.2012 18:00 and 03.82012 06:30) MSC Flaminia sailed 60 miles at average speed 1.5 knot. NSB published press-release on August 3 mentioning again the bad weather hampering salvage operation, are they sailing into the middle of the Atlantic intending to find somewhere there a quiet place? That’s quite an innovation in the practice and history of maritime salvage. One more photo published by Quest – France.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Situation on board the MSC FLAMINIA is unchanged. The team of firefighting experts has been unable to board the vessel since July 30th, 2012 due to bad weather conditions. A change of weather situation is predicted for Sunday this week. A detailed statement regarding the condition of cargo hold 7 is only to be made when the salvage team can board the MSC FLAMINIA again. Temperatures are monitored continously in this area in order to carry on with boundary cooling. MSC FLAMINIA is still listing by approximately 10 degrees. Her waiting position is approximately 360 nautical miles off the British coast. A decision to enter a sheltered coastal area has not yet been made but is expected in the coming days.
MSC Flaminia keep moving into the Atlantic, taking more to west
August 5: MSC Flaminia and tugs keep moving into the Atlantic, taking more to west, and as of last know position at 03.08.2012 16:56 in 46.03N 013.21W, sailing in general WSW direction at an average speed 2 knots. During the 10 hours interval between two last known positions they sailed about 22 nautical miles. No news from NSB during August 4.
MSC Flaminia moving back to UK
August 6: MSC Flaminia and tugs are moving towards England in general direction NE at an average speed 3.5 knots, last known position at August 5 23:00 UTC in 47.30N 010.43W. No news from NSB since August 3.
MSC Flaminia dead reckoning. Fighting fire by letting it burn itself out.
August 7: No precise position since 5.8.2012 23:00 UTC, assuming MSC Flaminia and tugs keep the same direction and speed, at 24:00 6.8.2012 by dead reckoning they were in the vicinity of 48.30N 009.20W. NSB published a press-release on August 6, saying that “Boarding had not been possible since July 30 2012”, adding that “Smoke emission in cargo hold 7 has declined significantly”. It means fire was burning out by itself for 6 days straight. Weather is to blame, said NSB. Containers on board of MSC Flaminia were on fire without firefighting for some 4 days in July 13 – 17 period and for 6 days in July 30 – August 6 period.
Could the responsible companies, MSC and NSB, direct MSC Flaminia and tugs to sheltered waters somewhere around Europe?
Was is inevitable and necessary to tow MSC Flaminia deep into the stormy Atlantic ocean for at least 5 days straight?
Did the companies do everything possible to tow vessel to sheltered waters and failed, rejected by coastal states authorities?
If they didn’t do it, if “shelter” option was possible but ignored, then, why did they take the Atlantic route? To let the goods burn out and then beat off claims by implying a force majeure cause?
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 6 2012
Thanks to improving weather conditions, a team of firefighting experts is able to board MSC FLAMINIA and continue the salvaging efforts today. Boarding had not been possible since July 30 2012. The current measures aim at inspecting areas which had not been accessible so far. Also, data is being collected to calculate and assess the stability of the vessel. Smoke emission in cargo hold 7 has declined significantly. Temperatures in this area are also dropping again. Currently, no cooling by the accompanying tugboats is necessary. MSC FLAMINIA is still listing by approximately 10 degrees. A decision to enter a sheltered coastal area has still not yet been made.
MSC Flaminia still in a dead zone. Why?
August 8: MSC Flaminia and salvage tugs still don’t show up in the area of stable AIS signal monitoring, though they should reach the area during August 7. They hang around somewhere in the Atlantic without any plausible explanation from NSB and MSC about the situation and the circumstances. Are they looking for another storm, or what? NSB latest press-release was dated August 6.
Last week I was able to find out about the containers of one of the shippers, according to the information from MSC office containers were safe, being stocked in Hold 2 area. Yesterday August 7 shipper called me and said MSC informed him one of the containers was destroyed. What actually happened to his containers, whether they’re all safe, or only one was destroyed, is still unclear. He was calling MSC offices, regional and head-quarters, for weeks, like many other shippers, but his calls were answered only yesterday.
Why MSC Flaminia is stubbornly kept in the Atlantic, what is the reason? Are the authorities of coastal states rejecting the shelter? It was understood that the plan was to tow MSC Flaminia into UK waters. What happened, do UK authorities prohibit shelter fearing disaster? If that’s the case, at least we have a right to know, that if a distressed vessel happens to be in the Atlantic near EU waters, it’s better and cheaper not to meddle with the salvage, but just sink her while she’s in the ocean, and save the trouble.
But MSC Flaminia is still afloat, so what is it UK or other states are afraid of? MSC Flaminia could be in a safe place by July 30. There are only two possible explanations for MSC Flaminia strange salvage operation – either UK or other EU states reject the shelter, or MSC and NSB are too busy trying to cover the losses, they just need time and privacy and don’t want any angry shippers around. The Atlantic seems to be the perfect choice, then.
MSC Flaminia latest position. Circling around.
August 8 evening: Reader of the Maritime Bulletin who has an access to LRIT data sent me latest known position of the tugs Carlo Magno and Fairmount Expedition, at 06:55 UTC August 8 Carlo Magno's position was 48.06.1N 009.24.4W Course 296 Speed 2.9knots. The Fairmount Expedition is someway behind at 47.48.8N 008.56.8W Course 329 Speed 2.8 knots. Latest AIS data showed Carlo Magno position as 48.04N 009.17W at 21:54 August 7. On the face of it, they are just circling around. Reader believes the coastal states just don’t give the permission to enter their waters. No news from NSB yet.
MSC Flaminia rejected shelter by EU coastal States
August 9 afternoon: MSC Flaminia latest known position at 9.9.2012 06:55 UTC 48.23N 009.50W, see map. NSB finally, explained the mystery of Atlantic wanderings – predictably, coastal states don’t give permission to enter their waters. With all the flaws and malpractice of NSB and MSC, behaviour of coastal states is just outrageous and as a precedent (there were other precedents, of course tanker Prestige tragedy being most notorious), puts shipping in an absolute intolerable situation. What to do in case of a serious casuality off EU coast? Tow vessel to Africa, or sink her, or what?
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 09 2012
The fire onboard MSC FLAMINIA remains under control. Individual hotspots still have to be fought. Thanks to stable weather conditions, salvage and firefighting operations can be continued. The vessel is listing by 10 degrees. Since a permission to enter a coastal area is unfortunately still not granted, the position of MSC FLAMINIA remains unchanged. Without such a permission, which can only be given by European coastal states, the salvage of the vessel is not possible and the success of the operation is compromised. Helmut Ponath, CEO of Reederei NSB comments: “I consider it shocking that in this situation a ship under German flag does not receive a permission from the European countries to call at a port.” Currently, intense negotiations are conducted with all littoral states. NSB also remains in constant contact with German authorities in order to make use of all possibilities for continuing the salvage operation.
MSC Flaminia as a nowadays Flying Dutchman. Family lost everything in MSC Flaminia fire.
August 11: MSC Flaminia like a Flying Dutchman keeps moving around outside EU waters, last known position at 06:42 UTC August 10 47.33N 010.08W, Course 267 deg., speed 3.1 knots. What would happen if crew remained on board, would the vessel be rejected shelter in that case? And what it is exactly EU coastal States are afraid of, what are the reasons for rejecting MSC Flaminia shelter in their waters? Vessel doesn’t look like an inevitable wreckage doomed to sink as soon as she reaches EU waters, causing the so-called “ecological disaster”. NSB and MSC don’t say anything plausible in this regard, but there must be a reason or pretext. Meanwhile, I’ve got a letter from yet one more desperate person affected by the accident. It looks like all his personal belongings, everything his family bought, kept and was surrounded with for decades, including children’s toys and car, were destroyed by fire. Here it is:
My name is Marzena. Twelve years of my live is on or rather was on the MSC flaminia. I ma trying to find some one who is affected by the fire on that ship. I sent all that i had to Poland and now is gone. I have read that individuals like my wont get any compensation for our container I am desperate to get in touch with other victims so maybe we can all join our forces to fait this ship mafia. Please if you can provide me with some information about the others I am left with nothing. My children do not have bed to slip on or clothes to wear or toys to play because everything was there including my car.
Please, Please, Please
A very sad story indeed, and once again, I invite all those affected by the fire and willing to fight for compensation, to unite and try to figure something out. I’ve got contacts of four affected individuals and companies.
MSC Flaminia, no news
August 12: MSC Flaminia - no news and no recent positions of the convoy. The latest position is 10.8.12 06:43 UTC, see the map. No news from NSB, either. The tug Anglian Sovereign meanwhile, made a trip to Falmouth, obviously to pick up some materials and spares and maybe specialists. Vessel arrived at Falmouth A&P Falmouth Ltd. Shipyard on August 9 and left on August 10, on August 11 at 14:00 UTC vessel was in position 48.50N 007.25W, steaming to the convoy.
MSC Flaminia keeping off EU waters. Owner of vintage American cars still in dark.
August 13: MSC Flaminia and salvage tugs still move around keeping off EU waters, because they are not allowed shelter by Coastal States. Latest known position dated August 11 17:41 UTC, see map. No news from NSB, latest dated August 9. Meanwhile, French Brittany edition 7SEIZH published an article on MSC Flaminia saga with the story of yet another shipper suffering from the lack of information and possible loss of his expensive goods, vintage cars: a 1960 Corvette, a 1966 Pontiac GTO convertible, a 1965 Mustang coupe and a Mustang GT 1968. American car club de France (ACCF) finds the behaviour of the carrier MSC most disappointing, as they still can’t get an information about the disposition of their containers on board of MSC Flaminia. Read the article at http://7seizh.info/la-situation-du-msc-flaminia-engendre-des-inquietudes/
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 13 2012
As weather conditions remained stable, firefighting experts onboard of MSC FLAMINIA continued to extinguish individual containers until yesterday evening. Currently, weather conditions worsened, forcing the suspension of the operations until the weather improves again. During the past days the salvage team was able to stabilize the vessel by pumping water from the cargo holds into the ballast water tanks. By now, MSC FLAMINIA is listing by just 2.5 degrees. With this list, the vessel is stabilized to the extent that the entry into an emergency port is possible. MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs are currently holding a waiting position approximately 240 nautical miles off the coast of the UK.
Despite ongoing talks with all involved authorities, a permission to enter a sheltered coastal area or an emergency port has not been granted yet.
MSC Flaminia making legs depending on weather. Rights abuse.
August 14: MSC Flaminia and salvage tugs keep moving in the Atlantic outside EU waters (see map), making legs whose length and directions presumably, depend on weather condition. NSB published press-release on August 13 saying the list was reduced to 2.5 degrees, and hopefully, that will finally convince Coastal States authorities that the vessel is stable and may be permitted to enter a port. We may presume then, that the main reason for rejecting the shelter was a big list and fears of capsizing? NSB and MSC don’t give the details of the shelter denial, thus fouling the public “right to know” once again, because the denial of the emergency shelter for a distressed vessel by the authorities is an accident in itself.
The owners of the containers stored on board of MSC Flaminia already suffer losses even if their containers are undamaged, just because they can’t get from MSC the information about the containers. I mean, not a detailed information about container’s present condition, that would be too much to ask, but just an information about the exact location of the container aboard, and if container was stored in the fire area, then the owner would figure out the rest by himself and start acting respectively. A quote from a letter of yet one more owner of the container on board of MSC Flaminia:
I can attest that the worst part is not either knowing that we might have lost almost everything, or that we might have to wait four or five months to see our stuff if it survived; the worst thing is NOT KNOWING anything at all. The lack of news is a killer, but thanks to you, we know how things are evolving. We were kind of camping in the flat I'm renting in Dubai, with the bare minimum things, waiting for our household items to arrive. If it wasn't for your blog, we might be still waiting for them, but thanks to your regular updates, we now know what to expect and we have started to buy some furniture and other items to regain some normalcy in the flat.
He’s a private person with family goods, but the companies whose goods are loaded on MSC Flaminia, suffer the losses, too, even if their goods are undamaged, just due to the lack of the information. For example they have goods already sold to their customer, and customer fearing the worst, demands refunding. The company refunds the customer, probably with compensation, but the goods in question are safe, and that’s already a loss, not to be compensated by a carrier. The company will have to somehow dispose of the goods rejected by the customer – store them, and start looking for a new buyer. The point is, many clients of MSC already fell victims, not to the fire (their goods may be safe), but to the lack of information only.
But look at the manner MSC and NSB treat their clients and public in general – they behave like they don’t have a care in the world, and not without a reason. The reason is a very sound one. They are not afraid of the possible claims filed by minority clients, individuals or small companies. They know they’ll beat them. Such is the manner of all major “players” in any given industry sector, be it liner business or pharmacy, or whatever. Look at the media – major media, including industry media, don’t dig into the matter and generally, don’t stand up for the rights of the small ones. They’ll raise a hell at each opportunity when it comes to right abuse in places we may never hear about, but they’re blind to mass right abuses of the ordinary folks going on right under their noses.
MSC Flaminia was rejected the refuge because she could interrupt the Olympic Games, said the UK
August 15: MSC Flaminia fire is not what it seems to be and what MSC and NSB are telling to public. Most probably, there is a very dangerous cargo on board we don’t know anything about, either explosives or highly poisonous materials, maybe of a military character. Several facts:
Crew abandoned the vessel without any visible real danger to them or to the vessel, vessel all by herself survived the fire being abandoned and unattended, survived the storm and as is can be seen on just stunning air video http://www.ouest-france.fr/actu/actuDet_-MSC-Flaminia.-Plus-de-danger-l-etat-du-navire-s-ameliore_39382-2104288_actu.Htm, is now proceeding under own power. Maybe I’m mistaken and there is tug somewhere far ahead of MSC Flaminia, missing by the camera? Have a look yourselves.
Information I received yesterday August 14:
The MSC FLAMINIA is currently sitting off UK territorial waters where she is expected to remain pending a decision by the UK authorities to either allow her to transit through the English Channel or to allow her into a place of refuge, where the salvors can take the steps necessary to stabilise the casualty before she heads to into a nominated port of refuge (at present expected to be either Rotterdam or Zeebrugge) where she will discharge any sound/part sound cargo.
The UK, French, Dutch and Belgian Authorities have recently met with salvors to discuss the casualty’s predicament and to explore the options available. The UK Authorities are particularly concerned that the damaged vessel may cause an interruption to the Olympic events, currently taking place off the West Coast of the UK, and the potential risk to the environment from the extinguishing water. There is also concern as to the structural integrity of the vessel, particularly since she is facing testing gales force weather conditions. A decision by the territorial authorities will be taken once the salvors have produced a passage plan, salvage plan and a stabilisation plan and any subsequent services are expected to last at least a further 4 to 5 weeks.
On what grounds do authorities reject the refuge to the visibly stable, seaworthy vessel? Fire is almost out, list decreased to some 2 degrees, and more to that, French video shows vessel proceeding under own power. Why escorting tugs were running between MSC Flaminia and Falmouth, carrying presumably, some equipment and specialists, why there were so many difficulties in boarding apparently sound vessel? How the distressed MSC Flaminia could possibly endanger Olympic Games (no less!), when she is definitely not in danger of sinking or big fire, and how her fire would possibly interrupt Olympic Games?
At present all the vessels proceed in western direction at a speed which is much higher than usual for the towage, they sailed some 90 nautical miles during 24 hours between 03:13 UTC August 13 and 03:18 UTC August 14, and at 14.8.12 03:18 UTC they were in position 49.47.2N 013.37.9W, course 300 deg speed 6 plus knots. Maybe the vessel is sailing back to US, where the voyage started, as the only place to deal with the dangerous cargo?
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 14 2012
Due to the inconsistent weather conditions salvage operations onboard MSC FLAMINIA can not be conducted continuously at the moment. The position of MSC FLAMINIA remains unchanged and the vessel is listing at 2.5 degrees. Negotiations regarding the permission to enter a sheltered coastal area or an emergency port are still without any result.
MSC Flaminia keeps moving west. NSB responded to my news.
August 16: MSC Flaminia and tugs for the last 24 hours with known positions dated 14.8.12 03:18 and 15.8.12 02:25 UTC moved some 60 nautical miles in western direction, at last known position general course was 280 deg, speed 5.4 knots. NSB immediately reacted to my news dated August 15 with a press-release explaining the reason of sailing in western direction. It’s interesting to note, that some of the NSB press-releases were published right after my news apparently as the answers to my allegations. If not for my news, would they bother with press-releases at all, I wonder?
As for my allegations, it’s true, they’re allegations, though based on facts and as such, they’ are not just wild guesses. Coastal States may be afraid of the structural damages which may lead to cracks and broken hull, as was the case with MSC Napoli in year 2007 in Lyme Bay, UK. But facts say MSC Flaminia is stable, or at least was, so unless all those responsible for the vessel will drag her around in the Atlantic until she’ll finally develop structural damages, the grounds of the refuge denial will still remain a mystery.
Anyway, whatever are the real reasons behind the already quite unique salvage operation, MSC and NSB have nobody to blame for the allegations and accusations, except themselves. They publish inadequate and too scanty updates, and they treat their clients in a most objectionable manner. They’re lucky major media have other more hot topics at their hands right now, but major media are an unpredictable beast, they may get bored soon, with the closing of the Olympic Games, and start looking for a new prey.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 15 2012
There is still no permission for MSC FLAMINIA to enter a sheltered area or a subsequent emergency port. Reederei NSB and the salvage company both remain in contact with all littoral states to acquire this permission.
At the same time, MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs have taken a position over 400 nautical miles west of the entrance of The English Channel to avoid bad weather and the expected swell. Since the coming days are projected to bring deteriorating weather conditions, the group has set a northwesterly course to an area where less swell is expected. Its speed is 4.5 knots.
A significant impairment of the stability of MSC FLAMINIA due the expected wave height cannot be excluded and is observed apprehensively. In the meantime, Reederei NSB has declared general average for the vessel.
MSC Flaminia moving west under tow
August 16 afternoon: MSC Flaminia moving in western direction under tow, convoy was in position 50.09N 017.49W at 01:37 UTC today, at a course 272 deg speed 4.3 knots. I’ve been mistaken assuming MSC Flaminia proceeds under own power, judging from the French video http://www.odin.tc/news/read.asp?articleID=1205 – I’ve had my doubts about the stern trails, but confused into mistake by a tug too much to starboard, and too high speed. A specialist in towage said after watching video, that MSC Flaminia is definitely under tow, propeller stopped, the tug to the starboard is doing the towage. It’s the second time I mistake MSC Flaminia for sailing under own power, maybe because I believe vessel is capable of sailing under own power, I can’t see why not. Too many guesses and assumptions are just inevitable in stories like this one, when the truth is shrouded in scanty info and allusions. Still, it’s hard to believe in a nice smooth story MSC and NSB are trying to tell, with main culprits being Coastal States and bad weather. There are some facts which can’t be explained by the MSC and NSB story, just can’t.
MSC Flaminia moving in SW direction. Vessel to be escorted by Navy and Air Force.
August 17 afternoon: MSC Flaminia moving in SW direction under tow, convoy was in position 49.05N 019.04W at 01:57 UTC today, at a course 224 deg, sailing some 80 nautical miles during last 24 hours. No news from NSB, though what can they say? That the vessels move deep into the ocean hoping to find there nice quiet area without strong winds and high waves?
Le Monde took an interest in the story (I selfishly assume, not without some reference to my investigation), and came to the same conclusion – there is something very strange on board of the vessel, so strange and so potentially dangerous, that the EU authorities still can’t agree on a refuge permit. Le Monde found out something more exciting than bare speculations – if MSC Flaminia will be permitted to be towed to either Rotterdam or Zeebrugge, she will proceed through English Channel under a very impressive escort of tugs, Navy ships and Air cover. Any doubts yet about some secretive cargo on board of the vessel?
It may not be military or some clandestine something, it may simply be civilian cargo but so dangerous, that MSC, NSB and EU authorities prefer to keep us in the dark, for our own good, of course. Though my guess is, they care not so much for our comfort, as for their own, afraid clients will start asking the carrier, famous MSC, some unpleasant questions about the practice of carrying such scary goods with their harmless family belongings or vintage cars.
MSC Flaminia changed course and steaming east? Overboard containers mystery.
August 20: MSC Flaminia and tugs latest known position was in 48.22N 020.21W at 18:00 UTC 18.8.12, and presumably, the convoy changed course heading now due East or NE at a speed of 5-6 knots. No news from NSB since August 15. There is one more mystery totally missed in official press-releases – some containers from MSC Flaminia went overboard and were reported as a floating hazard in Navigational Warnings. They may simply fell overboard, though some people assume they may be jettisoned for unknown reasons.
MSC Flaminia heading for Germany
August 21: MSC Flaminia and tugs are heading for Germany, said NSB in its’ latest press-release. Vessels are moving in NE direction at a speed of some 5 plus knots, see the map. On August 21 there will be a joint press conference of the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies and Reederei NSB. Most probably the leg the convoy is on now will be the last one in this unique salvage operation. It’s too early yet for a final analysis, and who knows, maybe the carrier or the authorities will inform the public about the true character of some cargo on board, or maybe there will be some leak of information. NSB said in its latest press-release that MSC Flaminia was en route from Charleston/USA to Bremerhaven, when the fire broke out, but it was understood that the vessel was to arrive to Antwerpen on July 17.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 20 2012
MSC FLAMINIA to enter German waters - Press conference on August 21, 2012
More than five weeks after the fire and the explosion onboard MSC FLAMINIA, a permission to enter German waters could be obtained in cooperation with the German Ministry of Transportation. This noon, the vessel has been assigned to the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies in Cuxhaven for further coordination. (www.havariekommando.de)
Further details will be presented at a joint press conference of the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies and Reederei NSB. The press conference is scheduled for August 21, 2012, at 11.00 a.m., in Atlantic Hotel Sail City in Bremerhaven. MSC FLAMINIA is currently situated approximately 450 nautical miles off the British coast. The vessel and its accompanying group of tugs are again approaching British territorial waters with the aim of a safety inspection upon arrival.
During the fire and subsequent explosion on July 14, 2012, which occurred during MSC FLAMINIA’s passage from Charleston/USA to Bremerhaven, one seafarer had died and one is still missing. A third seafarer remains in critical condition and is treated in a specialty hospital for burn wounds.
MSC Flaminia granted EU refuge thanks to German flag. Best way to stabilize the vessel.
August 22: MSC Flaminia and two tugs are proceeding towards UK waters at a rather slow speed, last known position at 20.8.12 16:30 UTC was 48.23N 015.06W, see the map. Tug Carlo Magno seems to be sent on some errand again, steaming towards Falmouth and entering English Channel in the morning August 22. The rest is already known thanks to press-releases and media news – MSC Flaminia is granted shelter in German waters after undergoing preliminary survey in UK waters by a joint team of British, Dutch and French experts. Some media said there are 37 containers on board with hazardous materials, some said there are about 150 containers with flammable goods, official press-releases don’t elaborate on that point. But official press-releases are very interesting without the details of containers, saying stunning things if one is curious enough to appreciate it.
Latest MSC Flaminia news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 21 2012
MSC FLAMINIA will be towed to sheltered anchorage in the North Sea
Under the coordination of the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, MSC FLAMINIA will be towed to sheltered anchorage in German waters. Subsequently, the vessel will be transferred to a port. While anchoring, experts (firefighters, chemists and engineers) will determine which hazards might emanate from the vessel and its cargo. Only afterwards a decision to which port the vessel will be towed, can be made.
A first observation of vessel and cargo will be conducted by British, Dutch and French experts on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency once MSC FLAMINIA approaches the vicinity of the English Channel on the coming weekend.
“We are glad that after the assignment to the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, the salvage of our MSC FLAMINIA is finally proceeding. To us this indicates that our company’s philosophy is right and the German flag pays off”, Helmut Ponath, CEO of Reederei NSB, said on a joint press conference in Bremerhaven.
MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying group of tugs are currently located approximately 350 nautical miles off the entrance to the English Channel. MSC FLAMINIA is expected to reach a so-called sheltered area in German territorial waters in the week after the next. The German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies estimates that the complete salvage operation will take up to two months.
MCA UK press-release
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
UK AND FRANCE SEND TEAM TO INSPECT STRICKEN SHIP
The United Kingdom Secretary of States representative for Maritime and Salvage Intervention (SOSREP) Hugh Shaw and the French Maritime authorities have decided to send a team of experts to inspect the MSC Flaminia.
To give these experts access to the ship it will be brought to a position 30 miles from the UK. This should enable the inspection team to board the vessel on Friday (subject to circumstances and weather conditions) to carry out a detailed inspection.
The team will include two internationally recognised experts specialising in marine salvage and fire fighting and a specialist fire fighting expert from the Prefecture Maritime.
The outcome of the inspection will be made available to all coastal States currently involved with the incident and will enable them to determine if there are any further requirements before the ship transits the English Channel en-route to German Territorial waters.
Hugh Shaw, SOSREP said:
Much has been done to stabilize the ship since the accident last month. The inspection team will be able to board the ship and carry out an expert analysis and evaluation. Their report will be passed to all the coastal States along the intended route to Germany and will assist with their decision making and approval processes.
NSB said that their company’s philosophy is right and the German flag pays off. It means that be MSC Flaminia under any other flag except Germany or other EU States, she’d have no chance of refuge in EU waters. If we’re to believe MSC, NSB and the authorities, there is nothing unusual and dangerous on board of MSC Flaminia, and all they were worried about was the general condition of the vessel. If that’s the case, then, any vessel under any flag except EU, suffering serious casualty, has no chance of EU refuge, and is to be either towed elsewhere, or sank in the Atlantic, to keep the planet, namely EU, clean and green.
MCA said in their turn, that “Much has been done to stabilize the ship since the accident last month”. Meaning that the best way to stabilize a distressed vessel near EU waters, is to tow her around in the Atlantic for at least a month.
What does it all mean actually, is beyond any reasonable doubt. There is some cargo on board of MSC Flaminia, of which EU authorities are still afraid, even though more than a month passed after the fire took place.
MSC Flaminia soon to enter stable AIS signal zone
August 23: MSC Flaminia and two tugs proceeding to UK waters at an average speed 4.5 knots, last known position 49.12N 009.07W at 22:21 UTC 22.8.12. Sometime during August 23 the vessels will appear on public AIS websites with stable signal, available for anybody to monitor them. Tug Carlo Magno is berthed in Falmouth, at the same pier she and another tug, Anglian Sovereign, were berthed during previous calls, during the Great Atlantic Raid of MSC Flaminia and involved salvage tugs.
MSC Flaminia waiting for weather to improve. MSC knew but didn’t inform the shippers.
August 25: MSC Flaminia and three tugs initially involved in salvage (Fairmount Expedition, Anglian Sovereign and Carlo Magno) keep moving around, or drifting, near a spot some 30 nautical miles south of Lizard Lighthouse. NSB in latest press-release said that the weather conditions in the area are unfavourable for safety inspection, which is to be carried out by a group of specialists. The German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies said a chemist is included in the team, and most important for the specialists is the question of the contents of the containers on board. Latest NSB press-releases are VERY interesting in several aspects, they’re given below with highlighted most interesting statements. For the cargo owners, the most interesting and important is the following statement:
Detailed stowage and loading plans have been presented to the salvage company and all involved authorities since the beginning of salvage measures in mid-July.
What it means is, that the carrier, MSC and NSB, could provide the shippers with information about the location of their containers on board right away from the beginning of the accident, but didn’t do it, leaving shippers frustrated and often, suffering losses, even if the goods were intact, due to the lack of information only.
Media said there is already a claim filed by the US company which shipped its’ goods on MSC Flaminia, there are no doubts that more claims are to come.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 24 2012
This afternoon, MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying tug boats FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION (Fairmount Marine) and ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN (L.P. Knight) have arrived on the southwestern coast of the UK. The planned safety inspection will be conducted as soon as weather conditions make possible a secure transfer of the experts onboard the vessel. So far, the transfer was not possible due to adverse weather.
Already on August 23, 2012, an oil monitoring airplane of the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies has overflown MSC FLAMINIA. During this flyover it could be confirmed that no liquids are leaking out of the vessel.
The German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies and Reederei NSB continue to intensively work together to coordinate any further processes regarding MSC FLAMINIA’s salvage. For any decision, reports and assessments of international firefighting and dangerous goods experts, specialists for maritime salvaging, engineers and ship builders are taken into consideration. Results of the fact-finding team with respect to stabillity of the vessel and hotspots in cargo holds 3 and 7 remain to be seen.
Buxtehude, August 23 2012 II
Condition of MSC FLAMINIA and dangerous goods onboard containerships
On Friday, respectively Saturday, a safety inspection by two teams of experts and an additional stability analysis conducted by Germanischer Lloyd, will assess the condition of MSC FLAMINIA. Based on the results of this inspection, a decision about the permission to pass the English Channel, one of the most frequented see lanes in the world, will be made.
Following the fire and subsequent explosion on July 14, 2012, MSC FLAMINIA is showing damages to her cargo holds. According to calculations of the GL so far, the condition of the ship is stable. The hull, superstructure, engine room as well as the stern section and the forecastle of MSC FLAMINIA are intact. No leakages can be detected and the ballast water tanks, into which parts of contaminated extinguishing water have been pumped, are not leaking. The cargo – including dangerous goods containers – is in a state which allows the passage through the English Channel and her transfer to coastal areas and eventually an emergency port. Such dangerous goods containers are transported regularly on containerships and off-loaded in ports. Radioactive materials are not onboard MSC FLAMINIA. At NSB, dangerous goods of classification no. 7 are excluded from the charter parties. Detailed stowage and loading plans have been presented to the salvage company and all involved authorities since the beginning of salvage measures in mid-July. The German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, which is leading the salvage effort, also has access to these documents.
„Dangerous goods are carried on all modern containerships“, Helmut Ponath, CEO of Reederei NSB explains. “Our ships carry up to 11.000 TEU and it is a normal that dangerous goods, for example chemicals for the German industry, are among them. Everyone should be aware of that.” With the expected local conditions in the English Channel and the North Sea MSC FLAMINIA is capable to be afloat. Given the numerous precautions taken by the experts of the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies damages to the environment can be excluded. For the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies and Reederei NSB, the protection of the environment is central to all further salvage efforts.
Buxtehude, August 23 2012
MSC FLAMINIA en route to Wilhelmshaven
MSC FLAMINIA and its accompanying tug boats FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION (Fairmount Marine) and ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN (L.P. Knight) is currently moving towards British territorial waters. On Friday, the group is expected 40 nm south of Land’s End, the western tip of the UK. Once there, a team of experts consisting of dangerous goods specialists, chemists and salvage experts will conduct a safety inspection onboard the vessel. Together with experts from the UK, France and the Netherlands the condition of the vessel and its cargo will be reviewed to ensure a safe passage through the English Channel. In consultation with the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, MSC FLAMINIA will be towed to deep water anchorage in the German Bight, approximately 12 nm west of Heligoland. After completion of all planned tasks there, the vessel will then be towed to the port of Wilhelmshaven.
MSC Flaminia and tugs riding out the storm in the open, no UK shelter granted
August 26: MSC Flaminia and tugs are roughly in the same position, though it was reported that the vessel was towed to Lyme Bay, Exeter, on August 25. The survey team didn’t yet board the vessel due to rough weather. If vessel was towed to Lyme Bay to shelter from the storm, then the team could already board MSC Flaminia. If Lyme Bay doesn’t provide shelter from the prevailing wind and waves, then the bay is more dangerous than the high seas. The tugs are making S-N legs in the same position 30 miles south of Lizard. MSC Flaminia AIS stopped issuing signals since July 26.
Obviously UK authorities don’t want MSC Flaminia in their waters. There are enough places in south UK waters to shelter distressed vessel from storm coming from any direction. The meaning of it is, there is something on board of MSC Flaminia, which UK authorities can’t risk permitting even for a limited time. They agree to tolerate the vessel close to the coast (no less than 30 nautical miles, it seems) for a survey and then transit through English Channel, but this is it. What’s so scary on board of MSC Flaminia, a pack of frozen hostile aliens who thawed in the fire?
MSC Flaminia boarded by specialists. No reason to be hysterical, said the authorities.
August 27: MSC Flaminia and tugs keep moving in the the pattern of making S-N legs, see the map. The Central Command for Maritime Emergencies (CCME) of Germany held a press conference on August 26 in Bremerhaven to inform the media and public on MSC Flaminia latest developments. It was told, that there are 151 containers with hazardous materials, mainly chemicals of different types. 55 of them survived the fire intact, 72 destroyed and 24 are damaged. The main concern is the Hold 3, where some spots still are found to be too hot. There is a plan to flood Hold 3, calculations show it won’t endanger vessel’s stability or structural strength. All the chemicals on board, said the CCME quoting NSB and MSC, are of permitted for such vessels and voyages safety Class and don’t possess an extreme danger. It is understood that the vessel will be kept outside UK and EU waters until the specialists and authorities will thoroughly evaluate the risks and work out plan of a final phase of salvage operation.
The head of the CCME said that not everything is clear yet, but definitely there is no reason to be hysterical, hinting at media and public unrest and occasional alarming news. Nobody is hysterical though, except authorities and the owner of the vessel, who didn’t bother to explain what’s on and what’s behind such a unique salvage operation, until public unrest was clearly demonstrated.
The questions many ask still remain unanswered, hysterics or not, and as the Head of CCME said, “not everything is clear yet”. Just one question – ok, you said there is nothing extremely dangerous on board, but why UK and then, all other States, refused a refuge in such a stern way? MSC Flaminia was under tow to UK until July 28, then suddenly she was turned away and began sailing around in a stormy Atlantic. Then there was a moment when definitely, salvage was at a loss as to where to sail next, keep near EU or move to some other place in other parts of the Atlantic. If Germany finally, found the vessel safe enough to be permitted to its’ waters, why UK refused to permit the vessel into a shelter even for a short time required for inspection – not into a port, just to some calm place, so that the team won’t have to wait for “weather to improve”, to board the vessel. Accidentally, half of the salvage time was spent on waiting for weather to improve.
Authorities don’t like public to go “hysterical”, but public has a right to know and don’t like the role of ignorant flock shepherded by flawless, never mistaken and never wrong, authorities and multinational corporations.
MSC Flaminia moving into English Channel? No official confirmation yet.
August 28: MSC Flaminia and tugs are approximately in the same area some 30 miles off Lizard, though AIS signal at 01:00 UTC shows they move at speed some 6 knots, course 40-50 degrees, looking like they move into English Channel. MSC Flaminia was said to be ready and safe for English Channel transit after the inspection team report. Still, it was media news. No press-release either from NSB or German authorities, while UK MCA press-release dated evening August 27 is not conclusive:
Monday, August 27, 2012
Posted 16:24 GMT
MSC FLAMINIA AWAITING INSPECTION
The UK Secretary of States Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) Hugh Shaw, has requested that the MSC Flaminia remains in a position 30 miles south of Lands End in order to allow SMIT Salvage to stabilise the ship.
This is in preparation for an international coastal state inspection team to board her to carry out an assessment prior to her getting approval to proceed to German territorial waters.
The team of six includes specialists in maritime salvage and fire fighting. The experts need to carry out a detailed inspection of the ship to make sure it is safe to transit the English Channel, Dover Strait and other coastal state waters during the passage to Germany.
Salvors are still taking steps to reduce the temperatures on board. The inspection team will be able to carry out their work once these risks are eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level and weather conditions allow them to board the vessel.
Once the inspection is complete the vessel will remain at its holding position 30 miles south of Lands End until the coastal states involved have had time to consider the report. They will then determine if there are any further requirements before the ship commences her transit towards German waters.
Hugh Shaw, SOSREP said:
Until the coastal state inspection has taken place, and the results passed to the other coastal states en-route, the MSC Flaminia will not be given approval to proceed to Germany. SMIT Salvage will inform the UK and German authorities when they are satisfied that any risks have been reduced to an acceptable level and that it is then safe for the UK, French and German team to board the casualty and carry out the inspection.
MSC Flaminia - Welcome back to AIS and to Atlantic
August 29: MSC Flaminia and tugs move due South at a speed of some 2.5 – 3.5 knots, straight to good old Atlantic again. MSC Flaminia is back on AIS system again. On August 28 I received a letter from an English reader of Maritime Bulletin who’s living in Mount’s Bay, southern tip of UK:
Just wanted to say a big thankyou from myself and behalf of all the concerned people who have been reading your information on the MSC Flaminia fire and the information on where she was etc. I’ve learned a lot about “boxships” and Insurance! I live on the coast in Mount’s Bay and there was concern that if they brought her in too close we might have a “MSC Napoli” type disaster on our hands.
I notice that today the Inspectors seem to have been on board and at 3pm her AIS was on and Carlo Magno seemed to be alongside rather than towing as she moving NW doing around 1.3-1.7 knots – unless she is being towed by an “invisible” tug !
Do hope she the weather will be gentle as she makes her way back to Germany and that at least some of those with goods on board will eventually get them back !
So we may make out the way the situation was developing during last 24 hours. MSC Flaminia was taken to Mount’s Bay for inspection and then left the bay under own power escorted by the three tugs. Alas, they didn’t sail into English Channel, turning sharply to the South and heading due South since afternoon or evening August 28.
Anyone with a good memory may remember that I suspected MSC Flaminia of being able to sail under power from the very beginning, two times I assumed vessel was actually sailing under own power, but nevertheless, was mistaken both times. As it came out, MSC Flaminia is capable of sailing under own power, and it may mean only one thing – there was or still is something on board of the vessel, which prevents people presence on board.
As of morning August 29 MSC Flaminia seems to be sailing under tow again (though it can’t be said for sure), heading to Atlantic all over again. According to latest NSB press-release, authorities of all involved countries – coastal countries along whose waters MSC Flaminia is to proceed to refuge, and Germany as a host of distressed vessel – for assessment of the results of the inspection. Inspection of the vessel by the specialist took place on August 28.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 28 2012
After adverse weather conditions on Monday prevented the boarding the MSC FLAMINIA, two teams of experts were able to take this action today. One team consists of international experts while another has been sent by the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies. The results of the inspection are expected in the coming days. After a positive result it is still planned to tow MSC FLAMINIA through the English Channel towards German waters. There, the ship will be anchoring before it is transferred to Jade-Weser-Port in Wilhelmshaven. Like during the last weeks already, the contracted salvage experts of SMIT Salvage have again boarded the ship today, too. Since assuming responsibility for the salvage operation in mid-July, they have taken every opportunity to evaluate the situation on site and actively engage in firefighting and salvage operations. Their additional inspection revealed that the final container in cargo hold 3 with a hot spot was successfully extinguished by SMIT. The temperature within the cargo hold matches the ambient temperature. In cargo hold 7, ten containers were declared to be extinguished. Currently, higher temperatures are measured only in four more containers. Overall, significant progress has been made in the containment of the fire.
MSC Flaminia waiting for final decision. The vessel may be contaminated.
August 31: MSC Flaminia and tugs keep moving around off waters of UK and English Channel, waiting for the results of the tests taken by specialist on August 28, and basing on the results, the final decision of all involved States – Germany, UK, France and Belgium. Meanwhile, I keep receiving several letters per day from frustrated, infuriated, worried shippers whose containers happened to be on board of MSC Flaminia. Individuals and companies who shipped from 1-2 up to dozens of containers still can’t get information from MSC or NSB as to the fate or at least, exact location of their containers.
I think, there is a very sound reason behind such, on the face of it, irresponsible and objectionable behaviour of the carrier. The number of the containers with dangerous goods seems to be unusually high, many of them are N.O.S. – Not Otherwise Specified – if I’m correct. My guess is, the vessel is contaminated with some of the chemicals, or whatever, which were in some of those containers. Such an assumption explains many things which otherwise, stay as riddles. If I’m correct, then, the carrier just can’t say what happened to the goods of any given shipper, even if his containers are stacked in seemingly undamaged aft section of the vessel. The carrier doesn’t know how far contamination spread and the exact nature of possible contamination, so he’s about as much at a loss, as shippers themselves.
Shippers are bewildered and don’t know what to do – the general question they ask me, is the question of compensation and possible income of a claim. Two or three logistics companies with a vast experience of dealing with major liner carriers explained to me, that chances to get any reasonable compensation from a carrier for damaged goods, for a small or middle sized shipper, are nil. Just that, nil. I think, that theoretically, some kind of a joint claim may bring positive result, a claim demanding the carrier to compensate the cost of all the lost goods unconditionally, on a general basis, without personal court proceedings for each and every client. The carrier failed to provide a safe transportation by loading the dangerous goods together with general goods, the latter being destroyed or damaged beyond restoration, not because of the initial fire, but because of unsafe loading, resulting from the malpractice of transporting too many dangerous goods by regular vessel. Is such a joint claim possible? I don’t know. If anyone has any ideas and proposals, he’s welcome, I’ll publish them right away.
All those who write to me, without exception, mentioned one thing – they couldn’t and still can’t find any information about the accident, except Maritime Bulletin. Where are the industry media and mighty major media? As far as I know, only French media tried to look into the story, but lost interest, too. Though few, but there were letters accusing me of being too dramatic, of flaws here and faults there – guys, I’m alone and I’m the only one among all the media, general or industry, who’s following the story and treating the whole matter as something important both for the shipping and for the clients of the shipping. Why don’t you write to say, The Financial Times and ask them, what the hell is going on and why they miss such an outrageous story? Why Assange is a fuss all over the world, while the mass violation of people’s rights goes on unnoticed? Hundreds (thousands in fact, because clients of MSC have in turn, their own clients) of people suffer, but no one seems to care. So those of readers who find me too something, unfit for the story or whatever else, will do much better writing to major general and industry media requesting them to react and explain the disaster in a professional, flawless way. I do what I can.
MSC Flaminia is to enter French waters Sep 1 noon
September 1: MSC Flaminia and 2 tugs moving in southern direction as of 01:30, tug Fairmount Expedition is in Falmouth. NSB and media reported MSC Flaminia is found safe for English Channel transit, but still waiting for permission from Coastal States. Meanwhile, French Maritime Authorities reported MSC Flaminia and 3 tugs were to start transit in the evening August 31, convoy is expected to enter French waters at around noon September 1, under close surveillance of French Maritime Authorities and other responsible bodies. In their latest press-release NSB said that “the salvage team members are not required to employ any specialized PPE (personal protective equipment) while working onboard of MSC FLAMINIA”, apparently trying to refute the contamination allegations. It doesn’t mean much, though. They’ve had enough time to decontaminate at least the superstructure. The whole story has already a pattern – MSC and NSB are trying not to say anything, or say as little as possible, revealing this or that detail only when cornered.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, August 31 2012
After evaluating the results of the team of experts, who had analyzed the condition of MSC FLAMINIA, the passage of the vessel through the English Channel is unobjectionable from a safety-related perspective. Currently, final permissions from some littoral states are still pending. These permissions are expected in the next few days. Until these permissions are granted, the salvage company SMIT will take the necessary preparations to ensure a safe passage through the English Channel.
The result of the experts is further confirmed by a report from Germanischer Lloyd which is based on the most current data from August 30, 2012. According to this report, stability and firmness of MSC FLAMINIA are not compromised and it is safe to tow the vessel.
The situation onboard has further improved. Most recent measuring shows that temperatures in cargo hold 7 are at merely 60 deg Celsius. The salvage team members are not required to employ any specialized PPE (personal protective equipment) while working onboard of MSC FLAMINIA.
The situation of the cargo and especially the dangerous goods is carefully analyzed and monitored by experts of the German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies and Reederei NSB. The prevention of harm to the population and the environment is the top priority during all further stages of the salvage.
MSC Flaminia ready for transit. The question of the next major accident is the question of time.
September 2: MSC Flaminia and two tugs still keeping off English Channel, while the tug Fairmount Expedition is anchored off Falmouth. Transit is expected to begin on September 2, and will take 5 days. It’s not clear if MSC Flaminia will be towed or proceed under own power. To reach German waters, the convoy will have to pass waters of England, France, Belgium and Netherlands. Four containers on board are unstable and may go overboard, they’re fitted with GPS transmitters to spot and pick them out of water if that happens. A lot of attention is paid to the chemical and toxic safety of the transit, all the needed for the assessment of the risk samples, including samples of water used for firefighting, were taken and undergo laboratory tests.
I’m receiving many letters from shippers, from people who live along the coastline of the areas of future transit, and from shipping and logistics specialists, both working in the industry and retired. The specialists are almost unanimous – there is nothing unusual in the number of the containers with dangerous materials on board of MSC Flaminia, sometimes the number may be much more, sometimes less, and more often, than not, quite a number of dangerous, especially flammable goods, like firecrackers, go declared as harmless, in order to save some 2-3 hundred dollars on a container. A quote from a letter sent by a retired Captain:
I do not think that the list of dangerous cargo is abnormal; sometimes, there is plenty more. There is no special condition to avoid mix of ordinary and dangerous containers (except conditon as “avoid near hot places, or food stuffs”), there is conditions and minimum distances between some special dangerous cargoes. Another question (but, may be, I am too suspicious), usually, these voyages of containers carriers in regular schedule are with partners, other companies which have a number of slots for their account. I do not know if it is the case now, I hope not, but if so the dangerous cargo list is not complete, the fact is that the whole list is with carrier MSC. If there is partners, there is probably more dangerous cargo.
I am a retired seaman, captain (often on containers carriers). (and English is not my mother tongue)
I hope (in fact, I’m sure) the transit and the final stages of the salvage will pass on uneventfully, but obviously the MSC Flaminia case is far from being an ordinary accident, even MSC Napoli disaster is paling in comparison. Some kind of a sum up article is required to appreciate MSC Flaminia accident true meaning, I suppose. Those working in industry don’t consider MSC Flaminia accident as something extraordinary and exceptionally rare, they’re wondering why such accidents are so rare.
To put it short, any given minute in any given waters close to populated coastlines, or in any big port, there are dozens of container ships with a lot of unknown (even to carrier) cargoes in the containers, declared as dangerous in most general form, often stacked together with other containers loaded with goods fraudulently declared as harmless, to save on freight. The question of the next major accident is actually, the question of time, there is no system worldwide to ensure any reasonable safety in that regard.
Latest news from NSB Niederelbe website:
Buxtehude, September 1st 2012
MSC FLAMINIA on Sunday on her way to German territorial waters
MSC FLAMINIA and her accompanying tug boats are expected to start passage of English Channel on Sunday. Passage will take approximately five days.
After all fires had been extinguished on board the MSC FLAMINIA by the salvage company Smit Salvage and after the stability and floatabilty as well as the solidity of the hull of MSC FLAMINIA had been confirmed once more by classification society GL Germanischer Lloyd, all involved coastal states of the English Channel (Great Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands) had granted permission for the passage on Friday respectively on Saturday. At the moment the firefighting tugs FAIRMOUNT EXPEDITION (Fairmount Marine), ANGLIAN SOVEREIGN (L. P. Knight) and CARLO MAGNO (Augustea S.A.) are being prepared for the passage, which is expected to start on Sunday.
On site represantatives of Reederei NSB in cooperation with the salvage company and the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies Germany (Havariekommando) have re-established the stearing gear and energy supply on board the MSC FLAMINIA. Superstructure of the vessel is intact and usable. Precautionary measures for a safe passage have been taken jointly. Engineers of managing owners NSB and the salvage company will be on board the MSC FLAMINIA during the passage of the English Channel in order to ensure a fire watch and the operational readiness of the fire extinguishing device of the vessel at any time. In close cooperation of all involved parties the MSC FLAMINIA will be towed to German territorial waters considering all safety aspects and observing maximum possible preventive measures.
MSC Flaminia entering English Channel
September 3 early morning: MSC Flaminia is entering English Channel under tow, heading for Heligoland Anchorage, see the map. The transit time is expected to be 4 or 5 days. The List of Dangerous Goods published by Maritime Bulletin on August 29 is now officially recognized by the authorities. The only way to force the authorities to acknowledge facts they’d like to keep hidden is to make the facts public.
MSC Flaminia transiting English Channel. The main concern is the risk of contamination.
September 4 early morning: MSC Flaminia and tugs transiting English Channel, see the map. A team of some 13 specialists are on board of MSC Flaminia, monitoring the situation and the condition of the vessel. The main concern of all the parties involved seems to be not the general condition of the vessel, which is sound enough, but environmental safety, i.e. the risk of possible sea and air contamination by the chemical and toxic materials. German Coast Guard ship Neuwerk is to join the convoy soon, with another team of specialists, including chemists and Task Force of experts from Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance Agency.
MSC Flaminia transiting English Channel uneventfully
September 5 morning: MSC Flaminia and tugs transiting English Channel, see the map. No news from NSB and authorities, which in itself is good news – towage proceeding uneventfully.
MSC Flaminia passed Strait of Dover and entered North sea
September 6 morning: MSC Flaminia and tugs passed the narrowest part of English Channel, Strait of Dover, and entered North sea. Belgium Coast Guard ship SPN 09 and Navy ship Stern are escorting the convoy.
MSC Flaminia on a final leg to Heligoland Anchorage
Sep 7 morning: MSC Flaminia and tugs went on a final leg to Heligoland Anchorage, ETA Sep 8. NSB in latest press-release dated Sep 5 published three photos of an English Channel transit. Notice one curious thing in all three photos – the view of a middle section damaged by fire is carefully avoided. Many photos showing the middle section damages were published recently, there should be some reason to hide the middle now. Either they don’t want to upset once again the owners of the cargoes, or maybe, there is some special equipment in there, to ensure chemical and toxic safety during the towage.
MSC Flaminia closing the refuge, Heligoland Anchorage
Sep 8 morning: MSC Flaminia and the tugs are closing the refuge, being some 45 miles off the Heligoland Anchorage area as of 01:00 UTC Sep 8.
MSC Flaminia to be docked in Jade-Weser-Port on Sep 9
Sep 9 02:00 UTC: MSC Flaminia, 3 initial salvage tugs, plus a German flotilla consisting of Coast Guard salvage ship Neuwerk as a flagship, police boats Bad Bramstedt and Bayreuth, and rescue boat Alfried Krupp, are slowly moving around, reportedly planning to enter Jade-Weser-Port, Wilhelmsvaven, today Sep 9 with high tide. Jade-Weser-Port seems to be just an ideal choice – here is a quote from a letter sent by Mr. Guenter Otten, Germany:
I just want to let you know one information: Flaminia is to arrive at the German Jade-Weser-Port on Sunday. Jade-Weser-Port is a brand new deep-water-port that is not really opened because they have of lot of problems with the construction.
There in a secured and desolated area the vessel will be checked once more by specialists in order to work out the safest offloading plan, and to go on with it. The cargo owners still have a long way to go before they’ll get their cargoes, or what’s left of them. That is, if they’ll get anything at all, at least some of them. I’m talking about possible contamination, because I personally, can’t think out any other reason explaining such unprecedented salvage operation and safety measures. Some (or many) believe there is more behind the whole story, and there is something so dangerous on board that it’s kept an absolute secret, either to avoid public panic, or unrest and protests against transportation of extremely dangerous materials by a regular liner ship, together with general cargoes, without any special safety measures in order to keep the shipment secret. Well, it may be so, it may not be so, who knows? Generally speaking, secret cargo on board of MSC Flaminia is irrelevant to the lessons we should learn from the MSC Flaminia accident facts as they are, without wild guessing.
It’s high time, I suppose, for a sum up and analysis of the accident. I believe there are three important aspects of the whole matter, each deserving a special consideration:
How safe are the regular container ships and their cargoes?
The unjust and obnoxious way the major liner companies treat their small-sized clients.
Inadequate and incompetent media coverage of the accident.
To be continued…
Lost dangerous containers from MSC Flaminia drifting off Ireland
Sep 15: The Irish Examiner reported on Sep 15 that some containers, apparently containing some liquid chemicals, are afloat and drifting towards south-west coast of Ireland:
Ship’s hazardous cargo floats towards Irish coast
By Sean O’Riordan Saturday, September 15, 2012
Dangerous cargo containers which toppled off a chemical ship are floating towards the south-west coast.
It is understood that some harbour hazardous chemicals which could present a danger to transatlantic vessels on the main shipping lanes. The containers slipped off German-registered ship MSC Flaminia, which caught fire on Jul 14. It caused an explosion that forced the crew to abandon the ship. Salvage operations were under way yesterday as some of the containers were towed into Castletownbere, West Cork, by a tug boat.
Maritime Bulletin reported overboard containers on Aug 20, Navigational Warning with regards to drifting containers was published before Aug 20. Are they the same containers found recently near Ireland coast, and did they fall overboard, or were jettisoned?
Overboard containers mystery
August 20: There is one more mystery totally missed in official press-releases – some containers from MSC Flaminia went overboard and were reported as a floating hazard in Navigational Warnings. They may simply fell overboard, though some people assume they may be jettisoned for unknown reasons.
MSC Flaminia and Amsterdam Bridge smothered but smoldering
Sep 13: Fire teams were called to MSC Flaminia two times during the last 24 hours, reported vessltracker.com. On the night of Sep 12 some of the containers heated up to glowing, the fire teams cooled them down and left the vessel to be called back several hours later after another container with pressed paper heated up to more than 200 deg C. Four units cooled the container down to 30 deg using water and foam. The container could not be opened as it is stowed in the hold. Strange rumours are circulating in Internet with regards to a possible character of some of the cargo on board of MSC Flaminia, but they’re rumours not facts, and can be omitted. The known flammable cargoes on board are more than enough headache for the salvage teams, fire fighters, authorities and unfortunate shippers, to worry about secrets and conspiracies.
Meanwhile, another fire-stricken container ship, Amsterdam Bridge, remains anchored off Mumbai as of morning Sep 13, notwithstanding the official statements about the extinguished fire. Indian officials said fire was extinguished and no containers with dangerous goods were destroyed or damaged, so everything is fine under the sun and there is nothing to worry about. It seems though, that there is something to worry about. The official statement was rather vague, too general and contradictory in some points, a sure sign the authorities have something to hide from the public.
A major fire on board of laden container ship is a much more challenge to salvage than fire on any other type of the vessel. Previous well-known major fires on container ships differ from MSC Flaminia and Amsterdam Bridge in one aspect – fire occurred on the vessels which were far in the ocean, and the salvage simply waited till everything flammable burned out, then towed the remnants to the refuge. Actually, they weren’t salvages in a strict meaning of the word. MSC Flaminia and Amsterdam Bridge cases demonstrated the extremely difficult task of fighting the fire on the container ships, with hundreds of burning or overheated containers stacked in unreachable places. It’s like fighting a peat fire – no visible fire on the surface, and a smoldering furnace below.
MSC Flaminia will be decontaminated by the end of this week
Sep 19: Decontamination works started on board of MSC Flaminia and will last for about 5 days, with the aim of cleaning up the superstructure, reported German Central Command for Maritime Emergencies. It is expected that the superstructure will be cleaned and safe for people by the end of this week. Germanischer Lloyd worked out the discharge plan for MSC Flaminia, envisaging both the offloading of the cargo and discharging of water collected in holds during the firefighting. The stability of the vessel during the discharge is one of the main priorities of the salvage. 4 more containers added to a list of damaged containers with hazardous substances, the total number staying now at 153. The tests showed that the collected during firefighting water is less toxic than it was feared. I remember my news back in the days when preparations were under way for English Channel transit, presuming vessel was heavily contaminated and dangerous for people to stay on board. NSB and officials said that there was nothing of the kind. Well, it seems now that there was something of the kind. That’s why the crew, as I assumed much earlier, abandoned the vessel in such a hurry – they were scared to death not by fire, but by something else, the substances or substance, which contaminated superstructure to an extent it became uninhabitable.
Sep 28: MSC Flaminia is still hot, some containers from time to time require constant cooling. Containers with dangerous goods are still on board, also the water used in firefighting and cooling is so toxic that it has to be dealt with by specialized means. The contracts with specialized companies for discharge and disposal are to be signed shortly.
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