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The Norman Atlantic had problems with its fire safety and lifesaving equipment, and was overloaded

29 December 2014 / 15:12:13  GRReporter
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A document issued by the port authorities in Patras in association with the routine inspection of the ship Norman Atlantic that they carried out on 19 December reveals a problem with the fire safety equipment and passenger management in the event of evacuation of the vessel.

The inspectors had made serious remarks in connection with the watertightness of doors, lifesaving equipment, evacuation plans of the ship and the emergency lighting of the Norman Atlantic. According to the document issued by the inspectors, the inspection had established the following offences: gaps in "Documentation" associated with the evacuation plan of the ship in the case of emergency (SAR Co-operation plan for passenger ships), the lack of emergency lighting in the "Emergency Systems" section, problems with locking doors (doors within main) in the "Fire Protection" section, lacks in the "Lifesaving Equipment" section (Other lifesaving appliances) as well as a problem concerning the closure of watertight doors (closing devices, watertight doors).

The port authorities had ordered that the company owner should fix the problems within 15 days. The Coast Guard of Patras have however refused to comment on the matter and referred the journalists to the Ministry of Merchant Marine. A question has been addressed to representatives of the company owner, ΑΝΕΚ, which had stated that the ferry had all the certificates in accordance with the international safety regulations and no problem in security and emergency systems had been identified.

The ship sailing under the Italian flag was hired by ΑΝΕΚ in a state of emergency, due to the failure of another ferry, namely Superfast. Norman Atlantic had set off from Patras overloaded with 222 vehicles, the majority of them being tankers carrying oil. It should be noted that, according to documents, the ferry could accommodate 195 vehicles.

Tank drivers claim that it was very difficult for the heavy vehicles to fit in the ferry. According to one version, the drivers of the commercial vehicles had complained to the owners of transport companies that there could be a problem during the trip, as the tanks could hit in the ceiling of the ship garage because of heavy sea. However, nobody listened to their advice and they had to drive the tanks into the ferry garage.

One of the rescued drivers said that, during the trip to Italy, due to heavy seas, the cargo had changed its position and the rubbing of tanks on the metal roof of the garage had probably resulted in ignition sparks that had caused the fire.

The overloading of the ferry is probably associated with the increased needs for transportation of olive oil to Italy. It is known that the volume of olive oil exports from Greece to its neighbouring country is the largest at this time of the year. Especially this year, the demand for the Greek product has exceeded all levels of demand reported so far due to the reduced production of olive oil in Italy, a fact that is proven by the price that amounts to almost 4 euro per litre. In other words, tankers are currently transporting Greek olive oil to Italy on a mass scale and perhaps this is the reason for transport companies to press shipping companies to complete more courses.

In this regard, probably the increased demand for transport caused the ferry accident in conjunction with the failure of Superfast and the hiring of a smaller vessel without the capacity required to take on such large tanks.

The hypothesis should be investigated by the port authorities and the competent specialists at the Ministry of Merchant Marine, whose appearance unfortunately does not inspire any confidence in terms of the rescue of passengers who are continuing to make a desperate call for effective aid.


Tags: FerryNorman AtlanticAccidentPort authoritiesInspectorsDirections
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