Ship’s officers fined USD11,000 for lying about seafarer’s near death in ship’s hold

Emilie Bulker. Credit: Maritime NZ

A New Zealand court has fined the captain and chief officer of the 32,690 dwt Emilie Bulker for lying to port state control after one of their crew nearly died in the ship’s hold.

A dock worker working on board the ship in the Port of Tauranga discovered the 40-year-old AB unconscious in the hold on 6 September and notified Maritime NZ, a Maritime NZ spokesperson told SAS.

The hold where he had been working was poorly ventilated and contained palm kernels, known to deplete oxygen in the air. Fire and Emergency NZ rescued the Filipino crewman and rushed him to Tauranga Hospital where he was placed in an induced coma.

During the investigation into the casualty the captain and chief officer of the Isle of Man bulk carrier claimed the hold had been assessed for gas and was safe to work in.

“None of that was true,” Maritime NZ said in a press statement. “Oxygen depletion and gas build up in ships’ holds is an international known risk and a major concern.”

“International law requires operators to have a Safety Management System for a ship which sets out safety procedures to ensure that entry into enclosed spaces, like cargo holds, is properly evaluated for risk and that those risks are effectively managed,” Maritime NZ stressed.

Ship’s Captain Walter Damian and Chief Officer Ian Dalingding pleaded guilty to the charges of giving false evidence at the Wellington District Court on 19 September. They were fined NZ13,500 and NZD4,050 respectively.

Captain Damian also pleaded guilty to permitting dangerous activity. The injured seafarer was released from hospital on 10 September and awarded a NZD10,000 reparation payment for emotional harm.

The ship was detained, but later released. “Maritime NZ takes all steps to ensure the safety of maritime operations in New Zealand, including aboard foreign ships in our waters,” Central Region Compliance Manger, Michael-Paul Abbott told media.

“As well as taking the prosecution, we have shared information about the incident and this ship with other Asia-Pacific countries and reported it to the Isle of Man registry,” he said. “This is part of an international system for monitory ships that are involved in incidents – we help each one keep shipping safe.”