|Recently deceased Sammy and Yuli Ofer|
Something felt very wrong about the lack of disclosure and National's slow response to this disaster... and it appears my hunch was right!
The MV Rena, which was built in Germany in 1990 is currently registered to the Ofer Brothers Group, an Israeli company with ties to the Israeli military. The company's holdings include Zim, Israel Chemicals, Oil Refineries Ltd (BAZAN) in Haifa, Bank Mizrahi, Tower Semiconductor and more.
During the 1960s ZIM started to transport crude oil from Iran to Israel, and oil byproducts from Israel to Europe. The 1970s saw ZIM expanding into the container shipping business and in the 1990s ZIM had 15 more ships built in Germany. At this time, the ownership of ZIM was divided between the Israeli government and Hachevra Le-Israel.
In 1999, the Ofer Brothers Group became the controlling shareholder of ZIM and In 2004, the Ofer Group-controlled Israel Corporation acquired the Israeli Government’s remaining Zim shares, completing the privatization of the company.
The new official name after privatization became Zim Integrated Shipping Services. The purchase deal for about five hundred million New Israeli Shekels was severely criticized as being undervalued.
|The MV Rena under its previous name the Andaman Sea|
In May this year the Ofer Brothers Group was added to the U.S. State Department sanctions list and accused of being part of a deal to sell Iranians a tanker for $8.65 million. The sanctions barred Ofer Brothers Group from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, from obtaining loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions and from receiving U.S. export licenses. However on 13 September the Israeli holding company was removed from the sanctions blacklist. Two other companies also owned by the Ofer conglomerate were substituted, one a corporate manager and the other a ship-owning company. Allvale Maritime Inc. (based in Liberia) and Société Anonyme Monégasque D’Administration Maritime Et Aérienne (SAMAMA) (based in Monaco).
A State Department official today admitted that it sanctioned the wrong entity in its May 24th announcement, stating:
"In issuing this clarification, our intent was to sanction the specific entities in the Sammy Ofer shipping organization that were responsible for providing a tanker to Iran. The use of the name ‘Ofer Brothers Group,’ a commonly used trade name, caused confusion for some banks and companies that were trying to comply with U.S. sanctions. The complex nature of the conglomerate's business structure necessitated that we take the time to look closely at these companies in order to ensure that we were identifying the precise legal names of the entities directly responsible for the sanctionable transaction.In June it was reported that Ofer Brothers Ships were found to be carrying IDF choppers for secret missions that may have included surveillance in Iran’s nuclear sites. The ships that allegedly docked in Iranian ports may have concealed helicopters in special shipping containers.
In August this year, Australia detained the MV Rena because of cracked and rusted parts. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority after “serious deficiencies” were found detained the vessel for a day in Fremantle, Western Australia. The authority's report found the vessel had "not been maintained between surveys", the "hatchway cover securing arrangements are defective" and cargo was not stowed and secured as stipulated in the cargo-securing manual.
Despite the Rena being beached in New Zealand’s territorial waters, authorities were not allowed to board the vessel to breath test the crew to ensure drunkenness was not a reason for the accident.
The hazardous substance that authorities have confirmed is being transported by the Rena is Ferrosilicon, which is used by the military to quickly produce hydrogen. The chemical reaction uses sodium hydroxide, ferrosilicon, and water. The materials are stable and not combustible, and they do not generate large amounts of hydrogen until mixed. Ferrosilicon will slowly release hydrogen when in contact with water.
There are numerous other questionable activities of the Ofer Brothers Group and their subsidiaries. The few that I have listed should raise serious concerns about the safety and cargo of Rena.
Rena's Former name(s)
Andaman Sea (Until 2010 Nov 24) Flag: Malta - Call sign: 9HAB8
Zim America (Until 2007 Mar 12)
Andaman Sea (Until 2007 Jan 29) - Operator: ZIM
IMO Number: 8806802
Current flag: Liberia
Home port: Monrovia
Class society: American Bureau Of Shipping
Builder: Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft Kiel, Germany
Current owner: Ofer Brothers Group Herzliyya, Israel
Owner under name Andaman Sea: ZIM Integrated Shipping
Manager: Ciel Ship management Athens, Greece
Chartered to: Costamare Inc.
Voyage Related Info (Last Received)
Draught: 9.6 m
ETA: 2011-10-05 13:00