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Needless deaths

Needless deaths
While much of Asia continues to celebrate the Lunar New Year leaving shipping somewhat moribund, another tragic, and very possibly avoidable, bulker accident has taken place off the Philippines.

The handy size nickel ore trade between Indonesia and China is the very epitome of niche. Until about three years ago the amount of attention it attracted in the shipping media, or even to anyone not involved actively in it, could be accurately summed up as “nil”.

Like a lot of the more niche bits of shipping it was even more “out of sight, out of mind” than the industry as a whole.  Sadly this also means that while the whole world knew about thousands of people stranded on the broken down Carnival Triumph, the sinking of handymax bulker Harita Buaxite off the Philippines failed miserably to hit the headlines beyond a few trade press.

While the Carnival Triumph’s breakdown caused extreme discomfort to thosuands, no-one died or was seriously injured. The sinking the Harita Bauxite left 14 seafarers missing, and most likely dead, with just 10 of the crew rescued, one of whom later died according to the Philippines authorities.

At the time of its sinking the vessel was carrying a cargo of nickel ore. Should the sloshing of the nickel ore cargo be proved to be the cause of the tragedy, and the 14 missing crew members remain unfound, it would bring to 80 the number of seafarers who have died due to nickel ore liquefaction since late-2010.

This is a truly shocking figure.

Yet what is being done to prevent this senseless loss of life – very little. P&I insurers have tried hard to warn about the risks and dry bulk shipping association Intercargo has also lobbied over the issue, but the problem remains.

Just think if the same ships had carried hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil that had spilled and killed a lot of seabirds, or the same number of tourists had died in cruiseship casualties, the global uproar would have been massive. Surely on whatever trade it is the lives of our seafarers are worth as much as those of others.


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