Bangalore: Cargo ship MV Rezzak, which disappeared in the Black Sea three months ago, was allowed by an agency that assesses sea worthiness of ships to sail with nearly a dozen deficiencies, according to an interim safety investigation report by India’s maritime regulator, the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS).
Family members of the 25 Indian crew, who disappeared with the ship, plan to file a suit against the agency that allowed the vessel to sail.
Before Rezzak left the Russian port of Novorossiysk, she was detained by port authorities for 15 days to rectify 38 deficiencies.
Only 28 were fixed.
Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, or Class NK, the agency that allowed Rezzak to sail after certifying its seaworthiness, had asked the vessel to attend to some of the remaining problems in the Turkish port of Bartin Limani.
The ship never made it there.
An interim safety investigation report by Capt. R.K. Muduli, surveyor in-charge and deputy director general (technical) at India’s maritime regulator, gave details on only three of the deficiencies that were not rectified.
“There were only three outstanding deficiencies and were approved by NK Class to rectify at the next port. They were: general condition of engine room regarding cleaning, leakage on diesel generators and all emergency lighting,” said the report, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint.
The report also said Rezzak was asked to rectify four other deficiencies at the next port by port state control authorities (at Novorossiysk), and that “competent authorities” were informed about another three.
It did not specify what these deficiencies were.
Of the 38 deficiencies identified initially, 11 related to stability, structure and related equipment, according to an inspection report prepared by port authorities.
Five deficiencies related to life-saving equipment, another five to fire safety, three to propulsion and auxiliary equipment, four to navigational safety, and one to radio communications.
Some of the problems that were not rectified were crucial since the ship was carrying steel billets, a high-density cargo, said Uma Mohan, sister of Rezzak’s chief engineer Mahendra Gopal Krishna Menon. Mohan is leading a campaign by family members of the missing crew.
“We will sue the classification society,” Mohan said.
“Why did the classification society allow the ship to sail. That’s the question everybody is asking,” said 17-year-old Arjun, son of B.B. Goswami, the ship’s master.
Class NK, the classification society that allowed MV Rezzak to sail, is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies, the main global body of ship classification societies.
Classification societies set technical rules on safety and protection of ships, confirm that designs and calculations meet these rules, and survey ships and structures during the process of construction and commissioning.
Class NK could not be reached for comment.
Santosh Biswas, director of Pelican Marine Pvt. Ltd, the Mumbai firm that supplied crew to Rezzak, insists the ship had sailed without any problem. “Rezzak had sailed without any deficiency,” he said.
Muduli, in his interim report, said: “The vessel was released from detention after re-inspection by port state control. As per the designated person ashore (DPA) of the company, the condition of the ship’s hull and machinery were good. The condition of the vessel was good for her age.”
Rezzak was built in 1982 at the Komatsushima yard of Japan’s Tokushima Zosen Sangyo K.K.
DGS has not made the report public, but had said in a statement in April that the ship had “underestimated the severity of the prevailing stormy weather and sea conditions for safe navigation”.
People well-versed with ship operations are not convinced.
“With the three outstanding deficiencies on cleanliness, leakage on diesel generators and emergency lighting mentioned in the report, a ship can sail. But, the question is how did three key gadgets malfunction if one were to assume that the ship has sunk?” asks Neeraj Tyagi, a second officer with a Singapore-based oil tanker firm and brother of Rezzak’s second officer Pankaj Tyagi.
Neeraj Tyagi is referring to the emergency position indicator radio beacon (EPIRB), the global maritime distress safety system, and the search and rescue transponder (SART).
EPIRB is an emergency signal mounted on the highest part of a vessel. If a ship sinks, it gets activated automatically, floats to the surface and relays signals to the nearest core station.
Likewise, when a ship sinks, SART emits signals that other vessels in the vicinity can detect on their radar.
According to the interim report, Rezzak had installed a new EPIRB purchased from Russia.
“Still, it (obviously) didn’t work,” Neeraj Tyagi said.