Marine Log

April 20, 2006

Blocked drains cited in Egyptian ferry tragedy

As crew members on the ill-fated Al-Salam Bocaccio 98 sprayed an onboard fire they were attempting to control, water built up on the car deck and the ship listed and sank.

Drains on the car deck were blocked and passengers dived into the water pulling out paper and plastic bags that were obstructing them.

An Egyptian parliamentary report, that will now be filed with the prosecutor general, says the blocked drains showed that they had not been inspected by Egypt's Maritime Safety Agency

According to Egypt's official Middle East News Agency, the report said that the government, the vessel's owner and the Egyptian Maritime Safety Authority shared the responsibilities for the sinking of the 35 year old ferry on February 3. More than 1,000 people died.

The Al-Salam company that owned the ferry continued to operate it "despite serious defects" that made it unfit to navigate. "This points to the existence of a malicious collusion between the company and certain officials within the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety that led to disregarding of instructions," said MENA, quoting the report.

The report says the Al-Salam company had forged documents on the state of the ferry's lifeboats with the help of another company owned by a relative of Mamduh Ismail, the owner of the company.

Ismail is a member of the Egyptian parliament. His parliamentary immunity had already been lifted to permit him to be questioned, but he left Egypt soon after the disaster and is reportedly in the U.K. He now faces the likelihood of extradition.

The parliamentary report says that the ferry was carrying 1,408 passengers and crew and about 220 vehicles and says that by international maritime rules it should not have been carrying more than 1,168 passengers.

The report criticizes the Egyptian government for its handling of the crisis.