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Friday, May 14, 2010

Collision at SEA

COLLISION : ‘when two elephants collide, it is the grass under which gets crushed’. . Here is something on collision.                            (An article shared in Feb 2009)
Collision is the act of colliding; a coming violently into contact; crash. A collision is an isolated event in which two or more bodies (colliding bodies) exert relatively strong forces on each other for a relatively short time. Collisions involve forces and there is a change in velocity. In traffic such a collision can be between two vehicles, a vehicle and a person, a vehicle and an object, two persons or a person and an object (and more if an animal is involved). It is an accident or even a disaster.

As we travel on any highway, quite often we see ghastly signs of trucks colliding with one another causing damages and injuries. These are attributed to :- uncontrolled heavy traffic, mechanical failures especially of the breaking system, driver fatigue, poor visibility, judgmental errors, supremacy attitude of the driver, lack of patience, driving by persons not authorised and a host of other reasons.
For an Insurer, the collision hurts – the injuries / fatality would result in a claim (PA / MACT). There would be own damage claim for the vehicle and there would be claims for damages to the cargo carried in the vehicles. At sea it is much more serious – primarily due to the accumulated values of Hull, thousands of containerised cargo and freight not to speak of marine pollution, oil slicks…….

                                                              Collision damage to hull .

In Marine insurance , collision is a named peril in Inland transit basic cover and ‘Institute cargo clauses – C’.
At land vehicles colliding is understandable - but at sea ? Ocean is quite unfathomable. Steering (navigating) a ship is quite complex and different from the way we drive our vehicles on road. In earlier days, Explorers started their sojourns to unknown destinations with no idea what they would find along the way. Being stuck on a leaky, wooden boat for months with little or nothing to eat and drink was not much of fun. Disease, starvation and death faced them all. In those days, position, destination, and direction at sea was primarily determined by the sighting of landmarks, supplemented with the observation of the position of celestial bodies. The invention of the compass enabled the determination of heading when the sky was overcast or foggy. And, when the sun or other known celestial bodies could be observed, it enabled the calculation of latitude. This enabled mariners to navigate safely far from land, contributing to the Age of Discovery. The age old technique of celestial navigation was based on observation of the positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets and navigational stars.

A compass, the navigational instrument for determining direction relative to the earth's magnetic poles greatly improved the safety and efficiency. Then came the modern devices such as the gyrocompass and the Global Positioning System (GPS). Most modern navigation relies primarily on positions determined electronically by receivers collecting information from satellites. The Navigators frequently use charts. In the present era, electronic navigation through Radio waves, radar which determines the distance from or bearing of objects and satellite navigation rule the roost. When at Port, the big vessels are piloted into restricted waters. With all modern gadgets, accidents and collisions do occur.
This month a major collision occurred at Port of Dubai when the Maltese flagged MT Kashmir collided with container vessel MV Sima Saba. Thick black smoke billowed hundreds of feet in the air out of a gash in the hull of MT Kashmir.

The tanker was carrying about 30,000 tons of oil condensate valued at around $9 million. Onlookers saw viscous material pouring from the ship also burning on top of the water, as one of the 22 reservoirs on the Kashmir, all filled with liquefied gas, was damaged. The blaze was extinguished. The tanker had infact struck a feeder vessel engaged in shuttling cargo containers at about 5 miles from Jebel Ali. Investigations into the accident and thorough assessment of the extent of damage would take several days and all cargo will remain on board.

The container vessel Sima Saba was a relatively new one of 20250 DWT with capacity of 1440 TEU and can cruise at a speed of 18 knots. After the salvage operations, both the vessels stood safely anchored and no oil spill was reported.

                                                A container vessel on her better days………….

Collision liability also falls under the purview of Hull Policy and generally decided based on the responsibility for the accident attributed based on survey reports, eye witness accounts, crew testimony, police reports and other information gathered from various sources.

There was more serious news to follow as a Royal Navy nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard and a French vessel Le Triomphant were reported to have collided deep below the surface of the Atlantic ocean. Serious apprehensions were cast as both reportedly carried nuclear missiles. Defence communiqué of UK stated that two had collided in an extraordinary accident as they can’t see each other, raising questions about the sonar facilities.

After the accident, the French submarine returned to its base on L'Ile Longue, near Brest, under its own power and escorted by a frigate. Vanguard reportedly had visible dents on its hull and was towed home. All the crew of around 250 were reportedly safe.
It does appear that neither vessel knew where the other was because of the importance attached to remaining undetected. Whilst these nuclear weaponry are unlikely to have any insurance coverage, these high cost vessels are strategic crown jewels of the Nation and collision involving them has shocked the top military brass.

                                                     A file photo of HMS Vanguard……..

Shared arising out of avid interest in Marine related matters and your valuable feedback is solicited

With regards -  S Sampathkumar


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