The preliminary report on the loss of the 37,283 dwt Maltese flag tanker Erika has now been made public. You can get the report (in French) by clicking here.
Among the recommendations made by the French Commission responsible for the report is that the ISM certification of the Erika's ship management company, Panship, be withdrawn. It also cautions oil companies and charterers, "as a simple precaution" not to charter ships whose ownership is hazy.
The 1975-built tanker was lost in international waters south of Penmarc'h, France on December 12, 1999 when it broke apart and subsequently sank, creating a major pollution catastrophe. (see this month's On-Line Editorial)
One thing that emerges from the report is just how tricky it is to pin down who actually owns and controls some elderly tankers.
According to the report, the ships actual owners appear to be the Naples based Messrs. Vitiello and Savarese, (groups Euromare and Italmare in particular), perhaps operating through the Greek company Drytank s.a./Cardiff Marine directed by a Mr. Economou..
The ship is nominally owned by a Maltese subsidiary, Tevere Shipping. This is a single ship company, as is the case, says the report , with some twenty ships controlled by Drytank and the dozen controlled by Vitiello & Savarese. Tevere then entrusted the management of the ship to Ravenna, Italy, based Panship (which, says the report, could be a subsidiary company of the Savarese group according to certain sources).
Panship is directed by Antonio Pollara, who is cited as the responsible party in the ship's ISM certification. Panship recruited the ship's crew through its Indian subsidiary, Panship Mumbai.
Drytank/Tevere seems to have time-chartered to the Swiss-Bahamian Company Selmont/Amarship (which, indicates the report, could be related to the companies Morimor Trust, registered in the Bahamas, and Morgan & Morgan, registered in Panama).
The Commission however noted, without uncertainties, that it was Selmont that was in control of the ship at the time of the disaster and that orders to the ship were given from Lugano, by a Mr. Ducci of Amarship acting in the name of Selmont, but "as agent only."
Freight was deposited on a bank account opened in the name of Selmont (for the attention of a Mr. Moriani) at the Lugano agency of the Swiss subsidiary of the Crédit Agricole Indosuez.
The Commission says that at the time of writing the report, nobody physically or morally responsible for the operation of the Erika had appeared before it and only the hull and P&I insurers had made themselves known, through their lawyers.
The report makes a number of preliminary recommendations.
It recommends that the Maltese Maritime Administration, and those of other flag states , have a group of ship safety inspectors, appropriate to the size of the fleet. These inspectors must be demonstrably capable of assessing the quality of inspections undertaken by classification societies. The commission says that a recent series of total losses and disasters shows, in effect, that when they are not double-checked by a constant vigilance on the part of the flag state, these commercial societies can sometimes relax their attention.
The Commission suggests the Maltese maritime authorities examine with attention all the ships under Maltese flag that the owners of the Erika control or have controlled in the recent past in a recent past directly or indirectly. It suggests the Maltese authorities examine, in connection Port State Control authorities, each one of these ships with the view to suspending their documentation, as a simple matter of precaution, in case of doubt about the extent of any structural deficiencies.
The Commission also recommends that the Maltese authorities approach the ship's classification society, RINA, and the Italian authorities with a view to withdrawing Panship's ISM certification.
The Commission also wants a change in the IMO rules so that classification societies are required to transmit, immediately and fully, all details of a ship's records to authorities charged with making inquiries in accordance with IMO resolution A849(20)
Among recommendations made to classification society RINA is that it rapidly publish a document reprising all of its interventions on the Erika. And it repeats its requests that Panship's ISM certification be suspended. The commission recommends to classification societies in general that they review their inspection requirements for "pre-MARPOL" tankers. It also says that societies should release information to the proper authorities promptly and fully, without invoking a "commercial confidentiality" that has no place in cases of accidents and serious pollution.
The commission also demands that oil companies and charterers put more emphasis on the quality of the tonnage they charter.
It makes a number of recommendations essentially warning charterers to be wary of older tonnage of unclear ownership, or whose ownership has changed within the past two years, It urges charters to take advantage of all the information on ships now available from Port State Control authorities.
Finally, the commission says that, from 2000 onward, all "pre-MARPOL" tankers should be inspected, at least once a year, at the owner's expense, by an "ad hoc" committee, including representatives of the owner's classification society, another classification society nominated by the port state, an owner's technical expert, and a representative of the flag state.