Monday, February 14, 2000

RINA says "small structural failure or leak"
likely caused Erika sinking

Italian classification society RINA, Genoa, says its initial findings on the causes of the sinking of the Maltese-flag tanker Erika during a major storm in December point to a small structural failure or leak low down in the hull structure. This was followed by cracking that eventually led to the collapse of the hull.

Meanwhile RINA has conducted a full audit of Panship, the managers of the Erika, and has recommended that the Maltese and Italian administrations cancel Panship's ISM compliance certificates

RINA has instituted a full audit of all similar ships in its fleet and of its procedures to identify any actions that need to be taken to improve safety

RINA says it has co-operated fully with the French government investigation into the incident, and will continue to do so. RINA, however, feels the French inquiry "has been too quick in expressing opinions as to the parties involved" and more investigation is required to identify possible causes of the initial hull failure

RINA says its investigations prove that the calculated residual strength of the vessel at the time of the casualty should have been sufficient to withstand normal operation of the vessel in the prevailing weather. The residual strength was within IACS limits.

Initial investigations show that the hull structure initially failed at some point low in the hull, and that complete failure occurred only after cracks had propagated from that source.

RINA is continue its investigations to determine the cause of that initial failure and the results of the subsequent actions of the master, owners and other parties involved.

RINA also called for improvements in the exchange of information between classification societies in order to help prevent further incidents of this nature.

Nicola Squassafichi, CEO of RINA, says,the society is "convinced that it has acted correctly" and has "followed all IACS standards and guidelines."

RINA will focus on several potential causes of the initial failure, including:

  • possible poor loading or poor shiphandling by the master;
  • poor workmanship during repairs, perhaps at the Adriatic yard in Bijela, Montenegro, during August 1998;
  • failure of welding or other structure due to poor design or workmanship during building; and
  • the possibility that Erika struck a floating object.

RINA has appointed Three Quays Marine Service and Studio Tecnico Navale Ansaldo to conduct further independent investigations covering:

  • design and construction of the Erika and its seven sister ships
  • structural failures of three of the sister ships
  • past events affecting the structural stength of the Erika
  • the history of the Erika over the last ten years and in particular the loading on voyages between August 1998 and December 1999
  • evidence to be taken from the senior officers on the voyages from 1998 to 1999
  • evidence to be taken from the crew on the last voyage
  • repair work undertaken relative to the last Special Survey and during the previous five years
  • the effects of heated cargoes
  • port state control and charter vetting records
  • reports of floating objects for the time and area of the incident
  • loading and distribution of the cargo on the last voyage
  • the speed and handling of the vessel prior to and during the incident
  • the actions of the French maritime authorities during the incident

Squassafichi is also calling for urgent action to improve communication between classification societies. "Eight sister ships of the Erika class were built, under two different class societies, and have been classed by five different IACS classification societies at some time in their lives. All of these ships have suffered structural problems. Three of them, other than the Erika, were serious. No information on this history of problems was available to RINA," he says.

RINA believes that IMO and IACS should now act to:

  • improve transfer of class provisions to ensure that the ship's history is passed to the takeover class
  • set up a system to share all information which is relevant to structural or other problems between class societies, so that a full picture of sister ship behavior emerges




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