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Summary

Summary

The Panamanian registered bulk carrier Starfish sailed from Port Walcott, Western Australia on 22 March 1991 with 53549 tonnes of iron ore fines for the Polish port of Swinoujscie.

It is reported that the Starfish diverted to Port Louis, Mauritius on 1 April, when the ship's crew observed the vessel to be riding low in the water and water was discovered in numbers 6 and 7 cargo holds. The vessel arrived off Port Louis on 3 April, but was ordered from the outer anchorage on 7 April when the ship threatened to cause a major pollution incident.

The Starfish was escorted to deep water, 40 miles west of Mauritius and some 60 miles north of Ile de La Reunion, by a vessel of the Mauritius National Coast Guard. The crew of the Statfish was taken on board the Coast Guard vessel before the Starfish sank on 8 April.

Conclusions

It is considered that:

  1. The cargo of iron ore fines was presented in a proper manner, in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes.
  2. The physical properties of the cargo were accurately detailed in documents handed to the Master.
  3. The cargo was loaded in accordance with the instructions of the Master and ship's staff.
  4. In the event that Starfish foundered as a result of structural failure, in addition to the working stresses pertaining at the time, a relevant factor would be any excess stresses placed upon the hull in recent times. However in the absence of key witnesses and the ship's longitudinal strength data, the investigation was not in a position to reach any conclusion as to whether the permissible stresses were at any time exceeded during the loading operations at Port Walcott.
  5. The issue of interim Statutory certificates provided prima facie evidence that the ship was seaworthy. Unless the Classification Society had recently conducted a comprehensive inspection of the ship, the issue of such certificates on the strength of the existing certificates means that they were issued without a full knowledge of the actual condition of the ship.
  6. From the Bureau of Meteorology's analysis the wind and sea conditions prevailing at the time in the area through which Starfish passed should not have caused problems to a well found vessel.
  7. There is insufficient evidence within Australia To indicate the cause of Starfish taking water into the cargo holds.
 
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