COLUMN | Rich flags, poor reports… – Part 2 [Offshore Accounts]

Photo: Bourbon Offshore
Photo: Bourbon Offshore

The loss of the anchor handling tug Bourbon Rhode, which sank in a hurricane in the Atlantic whilst crossing from the Canary Islands to Guyana in September this year with the tragic loss of eleven of its fourteen crew is an even more serious test of flag state transparency and investigative rigour, for one of the richest countries in the world.

This ship was Luxembourg-registered and Luxembourg's record at investigating maritime incidents is frankly, pathetic. The Luxembourg department of transport website shows only two published marine accident investigation reports since 2010. Either Luxembourg as a flag has impeccable safety, or its reports are significantly delayed or not published at all.

One of those two available reports relates to a fatality caused by a watertight door onboard the dredger IBN Battuta in 2011, but the final investigation report was not published until 2018.

In the actual report the Luxembourg investigators even state that a similar accident occurred on a similar vessel three years later (p26). How can accidents be avoided and lives saved if Luxembourg is so tardy in its reporting?

The families of those eleven seafarers who perished in the Bourbon Rhode deserve better. It shouldn't take seven years to publish a final accident report. It better not take seven years to publish this one.

The sinking of the Bourbon Rhode raises many questions about how the vessel came to have left dock and ended up adrift and broken down in the eye of a tropical storm – similar questions as for the Teras Lyza about routing, voyage planning, technical and operational management, possible commercial pressure to meet deadlines, class approval for repairs, and the condition of the ship at the time it sailed from Las Palmas.

The relative deserve to know how and why their loved ones died. The marine industry sadly only seems to improve through lessons learned from horrible accidents like this. In order for us to learn and not make the same mistakes, flag states have a duty to investigate thoroughly and share their findings.

Singapore and Luxembourg are two of the best funded governments in the world. They have the resources available if they really wanted to make a difference. For the sake of future safety, all I want for Christmas is thorough, public and timely flag state reporting into these events.

Background references

Bourbon's tribute to its lost seafarers is here:

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Baird Maritime / Work Boat World