From shipping catastrophe to Reality TV via defective lifejackets!

Photo credit: The Dubrovnik Times
Photo credit: The Dubrovnik Times

Mike Schwarz casts his eye back over last month’s eventful and eclectic marine news.

Another maritime accident of catastrophic proportions as MV X-Press Pearl sinks
Those who have followed my writing over the years will know my feelings about such events very well. Yes, we all know shipping is a dangerous business, of course. But yet again, here, on the face of it is another example of an accident that could have been prevented according to initial reports. Obviously, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the outcome of the investigation.

Like many others, I watched in disbelief as this tragedy unfolded before my eyes over a period of two weeks, following the devastating fire onboard the MV X-Press Pearl off the coast of Sri Lanka. The extreme effects of the fire (check them out online for they are unbelievable) led to the three-month-old vessel sinking. The potential for pollution to the beaches and marine environment of Sri Lanka, to say nothing of the livelihoods of the local population, is high. Locals have been warned to stay away from any wreckage as it washes up as it might be contaminated with chemicals.

Sri Lankan officials say they believe the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak which the crew had been aware of for some days. The ship was carrying 25 tonnes of the highly corrosive nitric acid, which is used in the manufacture of fertilisers and explosives.

Tim Hartnoll, the executive chairman of X-Press Feeders, told Splash that poor packaging was allegedly responsible for the acid leak, which the crew had detected while in the Arabian Sea thousands of kilometres away from Sri Lanka. On detecting the leak, the ship’s captain then contacted two ports – Hazira on the west coast of India and Hamad in Qatar – requesting to offload the containers in question. The requests were denied and the ship, which was delivered from a yard in China this February, made its way to Sri Lanka.

Although it is of little use, IIMS’ thoughts are with the people of Sri Lanka at this challenging time.

Defective lifejackets – you cannot be serious, surely?
I was horrified to read that as many as half the lifejackets brought into a clinic recently failed to pass muster. How does the average person on the water know if their lifejacket will save them at that vital moment and why would they not want to be certain that it was going to work?

A recent lifejacket clinic held by the RNLI in Eastbourne’s Sovereign Harbour in the UK discovered more than half of the lifejackets checked were defective. Wearing a non-functioning lifejacket is a complete waste of time and that so many people should be putting themselves in potential danger is deeply concerning.

At the event, we are told, over 70 lifejackets were presented to the RNLI volunteers. The team verbally guided the owners through how to check for wear and tear and how to maintain their lifejackets. Shockingly, 42 lifejackets were found to have defects, potentially rendering them useless.

Reality TV show, Below Deck, reveals staggering production cost
At first, I read this story with a sense of amusement, but clearly there is a very serious side to making reality TV shows and a large production budget to boot.

Bravo TV’s Below Deck chronicles the lives of crew members who work and reside aboard luxury yachts during the charter season. Each season features a different crew configuration, and the episodes show how the crew members interact and deal with personal issues alongside their working lives.

Yacht owners have revealed how much they were paid for the use of their boats for the filming of the show. Bobby Genovese, owner of 46-metre M/Y Valor recently revealed how much he was paid for the use of his boat. “I don’t use the boat those six weeks. They paid me a million dollars, they fixed the damage that they caused, my crew got the opportunity to have time off, and it made sense for me.” It should be noted that his boat’s real name is BG. Since he didn’t want his vessel to be associated with the show, the stage name Valor was chosen.

Below Deck’s cast member, Hannah Ferrier, revealed what it costs to film the series. “All I’ve got is the gossip, and numbers have been swirled between $10 to $12 million,” she told the Daily Mail.

Mike Schwarz
IIMS Chief Executive Officer

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