Rena - a disaster waiting to happen | The Jackal

27 Dec 2011

Rena - a disaster waiting to happen

Last Thursday, Nick Perry wrote a great article informing us that the Rena had at least 17 safety problems before it crashed. But this wasn't enough to keep the unsafe flag of convenience ship detained...

For other problems, the captain turned to the Liberia Bureau of Maritime Affairs, which contracts with an American company to run its ship registry.
The Virginia-based office sent the captain a series of faxes on July 21 granting the ship one-month exemptions for some of the problems. Australian authorities could have overruled the exemptions but elected not to.
Records show Australian inspectors were particularly concerned with the rusted and improperly tensioned hatch cleats and the ill-fitting pins for the cargo.

This works like a perpetual warrant of fitness, whereby ships that are unfit to sail are allowed to continue indefinitely even when serious safety problems have been found. Here is one of the things the Australian authorities wanted repaired on the Rena:

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority imposed some conditions on the Rena prior to it crashing into the Astrolabe reef. These included repairs to:

The MF/HF radio equipment, hatch cover securing arrangements cargo securing equipment to be permanently repaired as per Flag dispensation.

The MV Rena was clearly a disaster waiting to happen. Dean Summers highlights the reason why:

Summers, the union representative, said it's time countries did more to grow and protect their domestic fleets rather than rely on flag-of-convenience vessels, which now account for more than half the world's merchant fleet.

In comparison to the number of foreign ships found to have deficiencies by Australian inspectors, (554) which resulted in 25 of them being detained in the year to July, no Australian flagged ships were impounded.

This shows that the increased reliance on flag of convenience ships has resulted in an unsafe shipping industry. Unless the system is changed, we can unfortunately expect more disasters resulting from unsafe flag of convenience ships.