It is now 18 months since the disastrous fire aboard the MSC Flaminia, which cost the lives of three of the crew, showing that the practical consequences of these accidents tend to last for years.
The President of the International Salvage Union Leendert Muller cited this unfortunate vessel as a regrettable illustration of the failure of governments to live up to their obligations to provide places of refuge to salvors looking to find some shelter to stabilise casualties. But she is also an illustration of what complexities arise when the contents of damaged containers – in this case several hundred were destroyed, all end up in a sort of toxic chemical mixture in the bottom of a fire damaged ship.
When the salvors eventually got the ship in to Wilhelmshaven, it took many months to make the vessel safe, and a whole year before the ship could be despatched to the Black Sea for repairs.
Meanwhile the question has been what to do with the terrifying detritus removed by grabs and pumps from the damaged holds of the vessel. Even identifying what was present was a job to challenge expert chemical engineers for months, before deciding what on earth to do with it. It has recently been despatched to Jutland, where at Odense (once famous for building beautiful blue ships) there is a specialist facility that will render it all safe. One blanches at the cost of the whole exercise, although there have been suggestions that the dependents of the three fatalities who died bravely fighting the fire have been inadequately treated, to date.
There seems something seasonal about these cases, with summer giving way to autumn and winter, spring, summer and one year giving way to another before there is very much change, although the costs will rack up month after month. It is also an illustration of the fearful complexity – which we have seen in other containership casualties – of clearing up the mess that these ships seem to leave behind them when the world’s most efficient sea transport system goes badly wrong.
Author: Michael Grey Source: claymaitland.com