Investigating accidents to learn how to avoid accidents







27 JUNE - 22 JULY 2013 'MOL COMFORT'


Some 1,600 metric tonnes of fuel oil and 2,400 containers onboard the 'MOL Comfort' sank to the ocean floor when the remaining forward part of the container ship sank.

"There is an oil film at the site, but no large volume of oil leakage has, at this moment, been observed," MOL said in a statement.

According to the latest update from the ship's owners, a salvage team has been kept in the area (19'56''N 65'25''E) to monitor the oil leakage and floating containers.

"Most of the floating containers sank and could no longer be spotted. We reported the fact to Indian authorities, completed the monitoring, and the salvage team left the scene. We have been proceeding with a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the incident," the update added.

Earlier, officials had fought a fire on the fore section since July 6, before the wreck sank to a depth of about 3,000 metres, dashing hopes of towing it to a GCC port to investigate the cause of the accident.

MOL Comfort split in two some 430 nautical miles southeast of Salalah on June 17, in what was believed to be a major structural failure. The aft section of the ship sank on June 27 to an approximate depth of 4,000 metres, along with some 1,700 containers.



Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. reports that the MOL-operated containership MOL Comfort, while under way from Singapore to Jeddah on the Indian Ocean (12'30"N 60'E) at about noon JST (07:00 local time) on June 17, 2013 during inclement weather, suffered a crack amidships and ingressing water in the hold. This made it impossible for the vessel to continue on under its own power.

Some of the containers on the vessel were lost overboard or suffered damage during the incident. Details are being confirmed.The damage to the MOL Comfort is extensive, while the 26 crew members took to lifeboats. All were safely rescued by other vessel in the area.

JULY 8 2013

Fire now threatens the remaining part of the stricken MOL Comfort.

The tugboat towing the fore part reported that a fire broke out from the rear end around 0030 UTC (0930 JST) on July 6. The tugboat and two rescue boats have tried to bring the fire under control, but as of 0400 UTC were unsuccessful amid continuing bad weather. The salvage company has sought help from the Indian Coast Guard, MOL said, and the patrol boat Samudra Prahari, which is equipped with an external firefighting system, is heading to the scene.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines has appointed London-based Lloyd's Register as a technical consultant to determine the cause of the MOL Comfort incident.

On June 17, the container ship split apart in bad weather approximately 200 nautical miles from Yemen. The aft part of the vessel later sank, but the fore part was being towed to port, with the majority of its cargo aboard, when fire broke out.

MOL said it will seek counsel concerning measures to determine the cause. MOL already had started an investigation with the MOL Comfort’s shipbuilder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to determine the cause of the accident. Although the cause has not been identified, MOL, together with MHI and the classification society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, has arranged inspection of all six of MOL Comfort’s sister vessels.

The container line also will seek guidance from Lloyd’s Register regarding the safety of the MOL Comfort’s sister vessels. MOL in late June announced its decision to withdraw the six ships — MOL Creation, MOL Charisma, MOL Celebration, MOL Courage, MOL Competence and MOL Commitment — from service as a preventive measure and to upgrade their hulls, with the aim of making them twice as strong as the required safety standard.



Baltic Ace, cargo ship that sank near Rotterdam December 6 2012




Five crew of the car carrier Baltic Ace have died and six remain missing after the ship sank following a collision with the container ship Corvus J some 60 miles off Rotterdam on Wednesday evening.

Strong winds and heavy seas made rescue conditions difficult for the Royal Dutch Sea Rescue Organisation, which sent three lifeboats to join two naval vessels, one coast guard airplane and four helicopters in a search for those missing. The search resumed on Thursday morning but a spokesperson for the Dutch coastguards said the chance of finding anyone else alive in the cold waters was “virtually zero”.

The 148m Baltic Ace was reportedly carrying 1,400 Mitsubishi cars from Zeebrugge to Kotka in Finland when it was in collision with the boxship Corvus J, which was sailing from Grangemouth in Scotland to Antwerp. The Baltic Ace sank shortly after the collision. The 134m Corvus J is damaged but not in danger of sinking. It left the scene after assisting with rescue operations.

The cause of the collision is not yet substantiated but managers of the Baltic Ace have suggested human error was involved.  The shipping lane where the accident occurred is one of the busiest in the North Sea. The incident took place outside territorial waters and jurisdiction to investigate the accident must now be established.


If either of these ships had been equipped with autonomous safety equipment, this collision could have been avoided. Click on the picture below to find out more about the latest UK autonomous research project.




Another of the seven crew missing after the Baltic Ace cargo ship sank on the 5th of December 2012 has been found dead in the North Sea by search and rescue teams.  This brings the confirmed death toll to five. The other six crew members are presumed dead, but the search for their bodies continues.

The Baltic Ace ship, which was carrying cars, collided with the Corvus J in the North Sea 40 miles from the Dutch coast. Crew members from the Baltic Ace were forced to abandon ship after it started to sink quickly.

The Corvus J was badly damaged but did not sink. None of its crew were harmed.

Four people from the Baltic Ace were confirmed dead on the 5th and 13 others were rescued. A further seven were missing and the coast guard called off the search for them at 2.00am.

They resumed the search the next day, but were looking for bodies rather than survivors. The crew members were from Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine and the Philippines. Two of those confirmed dead and three of the missing men are believed to be Polish. The captain, who was also Polish, survived.


Pia Libicka, from the Polish Consulate in Belgium, told Polish news site "I have talked to the victims [at the Ostend hospital]. Physically, they are in good condition, but there is still a question as to their psychological state. "The captain [of the vessel] is in intensive care unit, but doctors assured me that his condition is stable."

The authorities have not confirmed that human error was to blame. Mariusz Lenckowski, from the agency that employed the Polish sailors, said: "They were all well qualified for their jobs."

The Dutch waterways agency said it has sent two vessels to help guide traffic in the busy shipping lane. One of them is using sonar equipment to find the sunken ship.

Sandra Groenendal, from the Dutch Safety Board, said that because the collision happened outside Dutch territorial waters, the responsibility for the investigation would lie with the states under which the ships were sailing; Bahamas for the Baltic Ace and Cyprus for the Corvus J.

Around 260,000 ships cross through Dutch waters every year and it is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Fewer than 20 accidents happen annually.



Andrea Vogt, producing a documentary on the sinkiing of the Costa Concordia





Last week, five seamen died and another 6 remain missing in the icy North Sea after the 485-foot Baltic Ace car carrier collided with the 440-foot container vessel the Corvus J about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Netherlands. At first glance, it seems like just another unlucky tragedy at sea. But looking just a bit beneath the surface, there is yet again a glaring lack of transparency and accountability that is all too common in accidents at sea. This aspect has continued to resurface over the last nine months as I’ve been conducting research and interviews on the Costa Concordia disaster for a two-part documentary airing internationally in January. 


The Costa Concordia cruise ship (owned by Costa Crociere, a subsidiary of joint UK-U.S. owned Carnival Cruise Lines) partially capsized in January 2012 with more than 4,200 people aboard while the captain was performing an unauthorized sail-by salute of the island. The official court report on the accident found fault with not just the captain for charting a new unauthorized course and failing to follow basic safety procedures, but also the cruise company for lapses in crew training and communications. 


At the heart of the Costa Concordia accident–and many other modern-day sea disasters – is the variety of ways that sea safety is short shrifted by shipping and cruise companies in exchange for greater profitability. Too often, they benefit from a lack of effective (punitive) international maritime laws that make up the toothless system of policing the world’s oceans. These sea safety regulations are full of convenient loopholes and are shockingly inadequate when it comes to justice for its inevitable victims.

The high-profile Costa Concordia disaster has received the lion’s share of analysis this year, but this week’s accident in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes is also a fascinating case study:

The Baltic Ace was carrying 1,417 factory new cars from the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium to the port of Kotka, Finland (and likely headed to the Russian market) as part of a 17-day commercial charter with Oslo-based United European Car Carriers, which was not responsible for navigation or crew and had chartered the Baltic Ace from the Belgian company Euro Marine Logistics NV. 


According to UECC: “The charter started on 26th November as commercial charterer, we are not involved in the navigation or rescue operations related to the incident and can only offer our sympathy and support to Euro Marine Logistics and the vessel’s owners. “(In other words, sorry, but not our problem). The ship was owned by a company called “Baltic Highway Ltd,” which lists its headquarters in the Isle of Man, but is believed to be part of the Ray Car Carriers Group. (In other words, sorry, but not our problem). 


The Polish-made ship had 24 crew included 11 Polish (including Captain) as well as Bulgarian, Filipino and Ukrainians, yet was flying a Bahamas flag, a term referred to as “flag of convenience.” (In other words, sorry, but not our problem). “Flag of convenience” generally describes the business practice of registering a merchant ship in a sovereign state different from that of the ship’s owners, mostly in order to reduce operating costs or avoid stringent shipping regulations.

Car carriers and ferries sink very fast –the Baltic Ace went down in less than 15 minutes. The sunken vessel with its 1427 cars now sits in a dangerous position smack in the middle of the Noord Hinder shipping route, which is one of Europe’s busiest. The water depth at the scene is 36 meters, leaving just 6 meters of water between the Baltic Ace and the surface. Of course it must be salvaged and the Dutch salvage firm, Smit Salvage, is said to already have offered its services. Smit Salvage also played an important role in the Costa Concordia accident, having led the debunkering operation, then lost the massive $450 million bid for the salvage job to American giant Titan, teamed with the small Italian company Micoperi. The Costa Concordia salvage operation to refloat and tow away the vessel in one piece is one of nautical history’s biggest and most complex.

Technically, the Baltic Ace accident took place outside Dutch territorial waters, which means theNetherlands won’t likely investigate unless asked specifically with bilateral requests by both Cyprus and Bahamas. (In other words, sorry, but not our problem). What do you suppose the odds of an investigation are?

So let’s get this straight: a Polish-built ship sailing under the Bahamas flag, owned by a company based in the Isle of Man but managed by a Greek company yet operating a commercial charter for an Olso company in turn operating on behalf of a Belgian company carrying Japanese-made cars from Belgium to Finland collided with a German-owned ship sailing under the Cyprus flag off the coast of the Netherlands in international waters. The ship that sank is insured by a company with headquarters in Bermuda (headed by a wealthy UK businessman).

Does this seem like a well-regulated navigation system that offers any reasonable amount of transparency or accident accountability? What are the odds of justice being done for the families of these dead sailors?

The world’s oceans are more and more congested. Cruise and cargo traffic is booming. The Costa Concordia was a high-profile case, but there are dozens of smaller accidents every month like the Baltic Ace that hardly make a blip on the evening news.

The world’s oceans should be regulated more akin to the world’s skies. The European Community, U.S., and U.N. must create new and better regulations that make the IMO more than just an advisory organization with no power to concretely improve sea safety. Marine insurers should be held responsible for total damage incurred from shipping accidents, not just limited liabilities, thereby creating a financial incentive for more safety at sea. 


Reuters reported in December 2012 that the Baltic Ace was insured for $50 million and $60 million (lead insurer was Catlin, the biggest syndicate operator in the Lloyd’s of London market, with headquarters in Bermuda and 55 offices all over the world). Catlin’s share of claims will be around 10-15%, according to Reuters, while North of English Protection and Indemnity (P & I) club will be responsible for pollution and personal injury. The lucrative marine insurance industry is already facing at least a $1 billion loss after the Costa Concordia cruise ship partially capsized off the island of Giglio.

It has not been a good year for sea safety. But will that be any incentive for change?







The MARINE  ACCIDENT  INVESTIGATION  BRANCH is a division of the Department of the Environment Transport and Regions set up to catalogue important vessel losses, or losses of particular public interest.  The MAIB is independent of the Government, who may not influence reports.  The aims of the MAIB is mainly to promote safety at sea or on other navigable waters.  It is hoped that the findings of these investigations will help to prevent similar occurrences.  


Other Formats:  46 Kb pdf  32 Kb word  Download help 


Marine Accident Investigation Branch
First Floor Carlton House
Carlton Place
Southampton SO15 2DZ  

Telephone (office hours): 023 8039 5500
24 hour Accident Reporting line: 023 8023 2527
Fax: 023 8023 2459
Telex: 477917 MAIB SO G  









Access for Disabled People
Accident Investigation
Crime and Public Transport
Freight Logistics
Local Transport
Road Safety
Roads and Vehicles
Science and Research
Shipping and Ports
Sustainable Travel
Transport Security
Transport Statistics
Transport Strategy
Understanding People's Needs









The following list of links includes locations which may have NO official or unofficial connection with MAIB or the UK Government. It is a collection of related information which you may find useful. If you have a link you'd like to see added here, or a link is out of date, please mail the details to


Australian Marine Incident Investigation Unit
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Canadian Coastguard

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions Home Page
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions Shipping Page
Hong Kong Marine Department
International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited
Marine Accident Investigators International Forum (MAIIF)
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)

Maritime and Coastguard Agency publications  

The Met office
National Marine Safety Committee - Australia
International Research Centre for Seafarers Safety and Occupational Health
Polish Maritime Journals
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
Transport Accident Investigation Commission, New Zealand
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
United States Coast Guard
USCG Office of Investigations and Analysis ship sinks following north sea collision








Artwork by Martin House for the John Storm adventure novel series


A heartwarming adventure: Pirate whalers V Conservationists, 

with an environmental message.

For release as an e-book in 2013 with hopes for a film in 2015 TBA

(graphic design: Martin House)



This website is Copyright © 1999 & 2013 Max Energy Limited  an educational charity  working hard for world peace.  The bird logos and names Solar Navigator, Blueplanet Ecostar and Utopia Tristar are trademarks. All rights reserved.  All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged.