The Antipodean Mariner is saddened by the reported loss of the modern Supramax 'Vinalines Queen', missing off the Philippines with a full cargo of nickel ore.
2005-built Supramax bulk carrier 'Vinalines Queen'
Her Master reported an 18 degree list before contact was lost with the ship and her crew of 23. Nickel ore is a nasty cargo, essentially mud with traces of nickel which is mined and exported from Indonesia using very basic 'off the beach' barging. Nickel ore is nasty because the fine particle properties make it highly susceptible to liquefaction, loss of stability and the capsize of the laden vessel.
Wet nickel ore in a ship's hold
If the loss of Vinalines Queen is confirmed to be due to cargo liquefaction, the loss of the ship and her crew was entirely preventable. In 2011, the IMSBC Code on Bulk Cargoes dealing with transportable moisture content became enforceable under the SOLAS Convention. The Code's application requires Shippers to test and declare the properties and moisture content of the cargo. Under the ISMBC Code, verification of the vessel's safety is to be confirmed by the tripartite agreement of the Port State of the exporting country, Port State of the receiving country and Flag State of the vessel.
Since the implementation of the Code, reports regularly surfaced of Shippers placing nickel cargoes in the market for shipment with clauses like "NO P&I SURVEYORS". "No P&I Surveyors" in Broker speak means no independent verification of the cargo and its suitability for shipment by P&I Club surveyors. The Antipodean Mariner has been told of local Police, on the pay of nickel exporters, confiscating cargo samples and running P&I Surveyors out of town.
That 'Vinalines Queen' loaded a cargo of nickel ore in Indonesia leading to her loss with all hands is evidence of the failure of the IMSBC Code. Despite the Code being enacted to make shipping safer, corrupt or weak regulators render it impotent and seafarers die. Here's the human face of the loss of the Vinalines Queen
Vinalines Queen Crew List
Another example of the Swiss Cheese safety model at work. No surprise that the maritime administrations of Indonesia, Vietnam and China are complicit in this preventable maritime tragedy.
The Antipodean Mariner
Post-script: One crewman survived and has been picked up by a passing ship after 5 days in the water. 22 crew remain missing and the vessel capsized in 5,000 metres of water.
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