Major Casualty Investigations

A R Brink & Associates are recognised as major casualty investigation experts
A R Brink & Associates are recognised as major casualty investigation experts

Here is a selection of major casualty investigations that A R Brink & Associates have been involved with for a number of principals. All photos are copyright and may not be used or reproduced without written permission by A R Brink & Associates.

Case Study 1: ‘SMART’ – grounding off Richards Bay in 2013

On the 19th August 2013 the mv SMART, a Capesize bulk carrier, ran aground as it left Richards Bay harbour. At the time the ship grounded and broke up she was fully laden with 147, 650 metric tons of steamed coal. A R Brink & Associates investigated the circumstances and provided expert evidence for the Chinese Charterers of the vessel and their insurers, The Charterers P&I Club of London, in the defence of an ‘Unsafe Port’ allegation.

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Case study 2: mv ZUNI PRINCESS

On 12 September 2011, the “Zuni Princess” sailed from the port of Beira in a ballast condition and when dropping the outward bound Pilot in the vicinity of buoy 6, an incoming vessel was approaching the channel. This incoming vessel being the “Bow Engineer”, which was not under Pilotage. The “Bow Engineer” approached the channel and at buoy 3, altered course to clear the starboard hand buoy and proceeded on a collision course towards the “Zuni Princess”. The “Bow Engineer” communicated via VHF with the “Zuni Princess” indicating the intention for a “port to port” passing. The “Zuni Princess” altered course towards starboard to widen the close quarters situation, however, as a collision was inevitable and the fact that at that present course, the “Bow Engineer” would make contact with the after port area in way of the engine room of the “Zuni Princess’, the Master of the “Zuni Princess” made an alteration towards port in order to minimise the damage and avoid the loss of his vessel should the engine room compartment be struck. The “Bow Engineer” made contact abaft the portside midship area of the “Zuni Princess” with her protruding the proud anchor hawse pipe spigot and port anchor tearing away the ship’s side plating in way of the upper topside tank area of tank No. 4 and 5. The plating was torn away from an area at the forward end of tank No. 4 (frame 106) up to the aft end of tank No. 5 at the engine room bulkhead (frame 38). The vessel underwent temporary repair at Durban and then proceeded to China for permanent repairs. A R Brink & Associates were appointed for the Owner of the vessel, their P&I Club and Hull & Machinery Underwriters.


Case study 3: APL AUSTRIA

On or about 12 February 2017 an explosion/fire was experienced in Hold 4 on the vessel APL Austria. The intense heat generated spread throughout the Hold and upwards igniting stacks of containers stowed on hatch pontoons above. The fire burned for some 3 days prior to it being in the main extinguished. During discharge operations fires within some of the containers continued to smoulder with the opening of containers and unpacking being necessary to facilitate fire fighting/extinguishment measures. Three container were found to have carried Calcium Hypochlorite mis-declared as ‘water disinfectant’ by Chinese shippers. A R Brink & Associates were appointed by one of the slot charterers and their P&I Club. A large number of containers as well as the ship were damaged as a result of the three containers exploding.

Case study 4: mv SEA-LAND EXPRESS – grounded off Cape Town on 19 August 2003

Sea-Land Express, a 32,926-dwt containership managed by U.S. Ship Management of Charlotte, N.C., grounded after dragging its anchor in heavy seas about 600 feet off Sunset Beach in Table Bay, near Cape Town on 19 August 2003 at about 06h55 local time during a severe gale. Sea-Land Express was chartered by Maersk Line Ltd. The vessel, built in 1980, came from Durban and was discharging cargo in Cape Town before heading to New York. She was laden with 1,038 containers, of which 33 contained cargo classified as hazardous material. The 843-foot-long vessel was successfully refloated on 13 September 2003 by Smit Salvage South Africa. None of the cargo was damaged and there was no pollution of the beach. The 24-man crew were not injured during the casualty.

During the storm, the ship was warned of difficulties with the anchor. Cape Town Port Control contacted the ship at about 04h00 on 19 August 2003 and informed ship that she was dragging anchor. The officer of the watch replied they were aware she was dragging and they were taking steps. Port Control did not give any order for the ship to move out of the anchorage as it appeared things were under control. Port Control gave Sea-Land Express a second warning at about 06h00. It appears no evasive action was taken by the ship and she subsequently grounded at 06h55.

Two investigators from U.S. Coast Guard Activities-Marine Inspection Office Europe were on the scene from 20 to 24 August 2003. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) decided not to conduct a formal investigation into the incident but did co-operate with the US-Coast Guard.

The grounding triggered a massive salvage operation. However, it was fortunate the vessel grounded in sand since it may have broken up if there were any rocks in the vicinity. Within hours of grounding she had settled herself deeply into the sand. Fortunately, the sand supported the hull and reduces stresses – she was virtually dry-docked in the sand.

A salvage crew from Smit was onboard by the afternoon of 19 August 2003 working to free Sea-Land Express from the sand. By 28 August 2003, Smit had pumped 3,518 metric tons of heavy fuel oil off the vessel. The dredger HAM 316, which had been chartered by Smit Salvage, worked throughout the operation to remove sand from around the ship in order to create a channel to enable re-floating.

During the salvage operation, 12 of the 33 containers with hazardous cargo were unpacked and flown off the ship using a Russian-made M18 helicopter. That hazardous cargo included liquid propane gas, explosives and corrosive acids. Also onboard were 50 tons of uranium oxide (ore) from the Nuclear Fuels Corporation of South Africa. The ore was headed to the United States for processing into nuclear fuel, however, this ore was not considered dangerous nor radioactive in the un-processed form and remained on board.

Sea-Land Express was refloated on 13 September 2003 during exceptionally high spring tides. On the morning tide, the vessel was moved 886 feet out to sea. On the afternoon high tide, at about 1524, the salvage tugs John Ross, Pacific Worker and Pacific Brigand successfully freed Sea-Land Express and towed the vessel out to sea. The ship was towed to Cape Town, where the remaining cargo was unloaded. The ship was dry-docked for inspection only (since the Cape Town dry-dock was booked up for other vessels and thus could not accommodate this vessel for any lengthy repair period). During the inspection in dock, the bottom had been set-up mainly on the starboard side and there was a crack in the number 2 double bottom wing ballast tank. The starboard side bilge keel had been distorted and folded against the hull. During temporary repairs to the hull and when cutting away the bilge keel, unidentified iron objects reportedly from a 19th-century wreck on the beach, were also found lodged within the starboard bilge keel. There are 360 known wrecks along the Table Bay coast, according to a local maritime archaeologist based in Cape Town. These objects were subsequently identified as canon ball and removed to the local museum. The propeller shaft and rudder were secured so that the ship could be towed to Durban for repair. Repairs at Durban included the replacement of 485 tons of steel on her bottom as well as renewing the lower half of her rudder. Damage to the propeller was minimal and easily rectified.

U.S. Ship Management declared General Average which required all the other parties in the venture (i.e., cargo owners, etc.) to share in the costs of the three-and-a-half-week-long salvage operation. A R Brink & Associates were appointed General Average Surveyors.

Case study 5: Wakashio – grounding and oil spill off Mauritius July 2020

The mv Wakashio oil spill occurred after the Japanese bulk carrier ran aground on a coral reef on 25 July 2020 at around 16:00 UTC. The ship began to leak fuel oil in the following weeks and finally broke apart in mid August. Although much of the oil on board Wakashio was pumped out before she broke in half, an estimated 1,000 tonnes of oil spilled into the ocean in what was called by some scientists the worst environmental disaster ever to hit Mauritius. Two weeks after the incident, the Mauritian government declared the incident a national emergency. A R Brink & Associates assisted during the initial stages advising loss adjusters acting for a number of large businesses, hotels and property owners that had experienced losses as a result of the oil spill.