Ship accidents under investigation

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UPDATED: Two major accidents involving Norwegian ships, one of them with multiple fatalities, were under investigation this week. Officials and the vessels’ owners need to know why one bulker sank in the South China Sea while a car carrier was intentionally run aground in the English Channel.

The 56,000-dwt ore carrier Bulk Jupiter, built 2006 and in the fleet of Bergen-based bulk shipping company Gearbulk, was carrying a load of bauxite in all five of its cargo holds when it issued a distress signal on the evening of January 1. The vessel had departed Kuantan, Malaysia and was bound for China with a crew of 19 Filipinos on board.

Gearbulk reported that a search and rescue effort was launched immediately but the only sign of the ship were some life rafts spotted off the coast of Vietnam. The vessel’s cook was the only crew member rescued as of Monday. Two bodies were also recovered but 16 persons remained missing, including the ship’s captain.

Quick sinking
“There unfortunately haven’t been any new developments today,” Ketil Andreassen of Gearbulk told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said the 42-year-old cook was rescued by one of the first vessels to arrive at the scene and taken to a hospital by the Vietnamese search and rescue service.

Rojas Angelito Capindo, the only man to survive the sinking, was initially unable to explain what happened in what appeared to be an extremely quick sinking of the large vessel. The Associated Press reported that he later told rescue workers he had “grabbed a life vest and jumped into the sea.” He didn’t know why the ship sank, only that the ship “suddenly” was lying over on its side.

“We have spoken with him several times, but the most important thing now is for him to receive medical care,” Andreassen said. “We need to take care of him and make sure he’ll be alright.”

His report will be important as investigators try to unravel what happened on board the ship. Six other vessels were taking part in an ongoing search and rescue operation on Sunday and one of Gearbulk’s own vessels was on its way to the site of the sinking as well.

Car-carrier crew feared capsizing
Meanwhile, another investigation was underway into the grounding of the large car carrier Höegh Osaka, which was leaning at a 52-degree angle on a sandbank off Southampton. The grounding on Saturday, which disrupted the busy port, was reported to be intentional because the crew feared the vessel would capsize.

The vessel, in the fleet of Oslo-based Höegh Ugland Autoliners, has 1,400 cars on board and efforts were being made to free the ship without further disrupting traffic to and from Southampton.

The BBC reported that it was unclear why the crew feared a capsizing, and the Marine Accident Investigation Board (MAIB) had launched a probe. Efforts to save the vessel and its cargo were expected to take at least a week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund