Top Grace ship managers on ‘high risk’ list after crew conviction

Top Grace bulk carrier. Credit: Vessel Finder/Cengiz Tokgoz

Following the conviction of the captain and crew of bulk carrier Top Grace for attempted murder of two stowaways found on board, maritime risk management organisation, RightShip, has placed the ships’ management company Fairweather Steamship on its high-risk list.

The captain and six crew members of the vessel were found guilty in South Africa, on 17 April, for the attempted murder of two Tanzanian stowaways found onboard. The stowaways were taken off the Panama-flagged bulk carrier, placed on a make-shift raft, given life jackets and water and pushed out to sea. The Tanzanian nationals told rescuers the crew threw them off the vessel over fears that they may be infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and were a danger to crew.

As a result of the incident, the rating of the entire fleet managed by Fairweather Steamship has gone down in RightShip’s online vetting and risk management platform, RightShip Quality Index (QI). The downgrading of the ship managers on RightShip QI could result in the company being locked out of certain charter party agreements, if contracts stipulate that the company has a certain rating in place.

It may also deter customers, from using Fairweather Steamships’ services, as RightShip would not be able to give a positive recommendation to a vetting request. Though, ultimately it is up to RightShip’s customers to decide if they want to engage in commercial business with Fairweather Steamship.

“The Top Grace stowaway incident is deeply concerning and a serious contravention of international maritime law. The clearly inhumane actions of the captain and crew in this incident are a stark reminder of the importance of following our maritime legal structures and convention,” said Maritime Crawfod Brunt, CEO, Rightship on the decision.

“One of the fundamental principles of international human rights law is our shared responsibility to each other and in this case the right to life, liberty and the security of person,” commented David Hammond, founder and CEO of charity Human Rights at Sea.

“This shocking contravention of the principle and the decisive actions by RightShip should be a reminder for the whole industry about how we lawfully conduct ourselves to others at all times, whatever the circumstances at sea.”

The high-risk rating will remain until RigtShip is satisfied that Fairweather Steamship have properly investigated the root causes of the incident, and put in place suitable measures to ensure such acts do not occur again. RightShip is currently in discussions with the ship managers over the incident.

RightShip has previously placed a ship management company on their high-risk list in 2018, following the ban of a vessel to visit Australian ports, for not paying its crew.