Thu, Mar 26, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Research ship sank due to human error: official

CONSEQUENCES:While the official report is yet to be released, the Marine and Port Bureau said that the ship’s crew could be barred from working on other vessels

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A senior Ministry of Transportation and Communications official yesterday said that crew errors led to the sinking of the Ocean Researcher V in October last year, according to conclusions reached by the Committee for Investigation of Marine Casualties on Tuesday.

The ship, which belonged to the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL), had been on its way to Kinmen on Oct. 10 last year when inclement weather forced it to turn around.

The ship hit a reef off the coast of Penghu and sank, killing two researchers and injuring 25 passengers.

Marine and Port Bureau Director-General Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) said the bureau spent four months investigating the accident before the committee held its first meeting on Feb. 25, during which it cross-examined the ship’s captain and chief officer, and others who had been on board.

He said the committee had decided to reconvene this week so that it could have more time to discuss the findings of the investigation, determine the cause of the accident and offer suggestions to prevent similar accidents.

“The committee members had thorough discussions from both the technical and legal perspectives, and they reached the unanimous conclusion that the accident was caused by personnel errors. They also reached a consensus on the punishment to be handed down to the individuals responsible,” Chi said.

The details of the penalties would be announced after the investigation report is made public, he said.

Based on the Seafarers’ Service Regulations, the bureau could confiscate the crew members’ seafarer service books for five years if they are deemed to have committed a serious violation, officials said.

They would consequently lose their seafarer qualifications, as the books expire if they do not engage in shipping work for more than five years.

Investigators said that information from the ship’s voyage data recorder showed that the vessel had begun to deviate from its navigation route when it was 5 nautical miles (9.26km) from Jibei Islet (吉貝嶼) at 4:15pm on Oct. 10.

The ship struck the reef at 4:44pm and then again at 4:52pm, leading to the ship’s sinking.

“The ship should be equipped with devices to let both the captain and chief officer know they have deviated from the route, which they should have the ability to adjust,” Chi said. “The fact of the matter is none of them did anything to address the problem.”

Photographs taken underwater show that the ship — which is 40m to 50m below the surface — has severe hull damage, particularly toward the stern.

The investigation found the crew had not closed all of the watertight compartments during the voyage, but that did not cause the sinking.

The bureau said that the ship still holds about 100,000 liters of fuel and should be salvaged by the NARL.

No salvage attempts have been made because of rough seas and bad weather.

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