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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Friday, 18 April 2014

SOUTH KOREAN FERRY [ SEWOL] SINKING (UPDATES ADDED)

 
 
Julian Bray (01733 345581) Reports:
 
 Easter Sunday Update: What has not been fully established is if a formal 'Mayday' abandon ship emergency was actually declared with the coastguard, and relayed to the owners of the vessel.
 
The fact that the vessel was asked to change radio channels would suggest that it had not been. Normally all other radio traffic would be cleared from the original transmitting channel in the event the vessel was unable to switch channels and then to  re-establish radio contact. Or was it just a distress call?
 
Normally the Master (Captain) or whoever is in charge, would make the decision and then the ship is IMMEDIATELY evacuated. RoRo (Roll On Roll Off) ferries are high risk, in this case the ferry was a stern (back end) loading flat bottomed vessel.
 
There is no hard and fast rule as to when the master can physically leave the ship, but it is recognised the passengers and crew must first be evacuated or in the process of completing an evacuation, as it might be more appropriate to command the evacuation from a nearby lauch, but not turn his/her back on the plight of others and head for shore.
 
The clearspan car/cargo/container deck cannot be divided easily into watertight segments and the majority of the cars and containers - on wheeled bogies - are not really secure. One jolt and the whole cargo consignment (in this case cars, containers, lorries, vans etc) will shift.
 
The low centre of gravity of these flat bottom ships is altered and no way can the ballasting tanks be blown (air filled|) or ballast filled (with seawater). Simply the ferry is then doomed. It only takes a five degree list or lean to fire up the emergency evacuation programme.
 
Every member of the ships crew is given on joining, a small booklet 'Masters (Captains') Orders.'  It is a complete employee or crew manual. It should contain all the owners/ company rules, emergency drills, signals and where the crew member is assigned for muster stations. Day glo bibs and hats are usually issued for crew to wear and lifejackets are located at strategic points, all over the vessel, not just in cabins.
 
Crew members would ideally have had regular repetitive training on the deployment of lifeboats, liferafts and other bouyancy aids. If the lifeboats are motorised ie not rafts  then boat driving, engine deployment skills are also factored in.
 
All this would be logged on the crew members personal file. 
 
Although we are advised not to speculate, it is clear something went horribly wrong. Apart from a third officer being at the wheel (nothing unusual but with appropriate senior supervision) there is the strange claim the master delayed the evacuation order for 30 minutes as he tried to right the ship. All the master has is a couple of side wing stabilisers which can be flipped out, and a sideways mounted mini propeller or bow thruster.
 
As already stated, impossible to right, if the cargo has shifted and totally impossible if the ship is taking in water. The gash in the hull scenario seems to have been dropped for the time being in favour of the sharp turn with the Master now saying: "it turned more than I thought it would...???"
 
How many times has this particular ferry  travelled this particular charted sea route. Hundreds of times.
 
So that does not add up. The cargo having shifted and possibly slid towards the stern would have breached the RoRo watertight seal and once the seawater enters it is sadly only a matter of time. Best demonstrated by floating an empty open milk bottle on its sode in a bowl of water.
 
All well and good until you create a smalle ripple, the milk bottle fills from the open end, sinks creating an air pocket in the top half. Sadly the seagoing vessel is not 100% airtight and as the air escapes, water backfills, the ship finally sinks stern first.  
 
 


 
 
This version auomatically releases if the water gets into the release mechanism
 or it can be done by cutting the rope (line) 
 
 
Julian Bray (01733 345581)  reports:   The agency picture below purports to show the Captain jumping ship (circled), note the white cylinders each containing a self inflating, self righting liferaft, one pull or cut of a single rope would have released these liferafts into the Ocean. 
 
 
 
Even with a 5 degree list, the command from the Master (Captain) to don adult and child lifejackets, put babies into special baby cots and  passengers to make way to boat or muster stations and prepare to evacuate the vessel should have been given, this would also have been endorsed by a series of very loud alarms or sirens. Usually a repeated three long blasts on the ships alarm system. On newer ships floor level guide light direction to exit systems would also have been illuminated. 
 

 
Why the master decided (according to reports) to delay the abandon ship order for a full 30 minutes cannot be explained, equally the master not being constantly physically 'at the wheel' more like computer game control paddles in newer ships,  in reality is normal, as command - with support from senior fellow officers - would be shared. Maps and weather charts are electronically generated, although paper charts are usually to hand as a back up.
  
 
The story is fast moving but what seems to have happened ( this is pure speculation) is that a rock (charted) or other underwater obstruction has ripped a gash or hole in the hull of this flat bottomed roll on roll off ferry. this has caused a 5 degree list and in turn caused containers on wheeled bogies or bases and some 156 vehicles to move.
 
Some of the larger cargo units should have been physically anchored to the car deck but often they are just chocked or wheel wedged.  The vessels ballasting tanks might also have been ruptured preventing the self righting properties of the vessels from being initiated.
 
All ships are subject to SOLAS rules (Safety of Lives at Sea) introduced after the RMS titanic sunk over 101 years ago. This specifies the number of life jackets, liferafts, lifeboats and sets out defined emergency rules and protocols.
 
The vessels will also have a data recorder lagwer than the aircraft version  and usually bolted to an upper forward deck near the bow and painted orange and about the size of a large kitbag.
 
If the cargo has moved, and possibly moved to the stern (rear) the pressure on the ro-ro sea doors and loading ramp could have breached the watertight seals. This allowing sea water to flood the entire open car/ cargo deck.
 
The fact it has gone down stern first and rolled over at the same time would leave little time for people inside the cxbin accomodation to escape. Imagine already at an angle and the ship tyehn continuing to roll over and anything not screwed down floating or moving around.
 
If the remaining passenger could find an airpocket they probably have 74 hours of air. Divers pumping Oxygen  in would not be of any value unless the airlines could be correctly targeted towards the airpockets.
 
The ferry built in Japan in 1994 is approx 480 feet long (146 metres) weighs in at 6,586 Gross Tonnes. It has sunk in 30 metres of water. Early reports said box cargo was falling off the upper open deck.
 
The current operator CHONGHAJEIN acquired the vessel in October 2012, then immediately added extra cabins on three decks increasing the registered tonnage by 187 tonnes and adding cabin accommodation for an extra 117 passengers.    
 
 
 
 



From local sources:

Passenger ferry capsized and sinks off the southern coast of South Korea More than 470 passengers on board. So far 29 casualties have been confirmed – including the high school vice principal who hanged himself Friday – 179 people have been rescued, and 268 people are still missing.
 
 

7.26pm: Yonhap News Agency is reporting that “arrest warrants sought” for the captain of the doomed Sewol ferry and two crew members.

6.12pm: AP reports:
Police say a high school vice principal who had been rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry has been found hanging from a tree.
The news of the death came Friday as rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of people still missing from the ferry and feared dead. The passengers included 325 second-year students from Danwon High School heading to a southern island on a four-day trip.
6.10pm: The suicide of Danwon High School vice principal brings the total death toll from the tragedy to 29.

5.58pm: Yonhap News Agency reports on the suicide of Danwon High School vice principal.
A vice principal, who was in charge of hundreds of high school students on a ferry trip that turned into a tragedy when the ship sank earlier this week, was found dead Friday in an apparent suicide, officials said.

The senior teacher from Danwon High School near Seoul, identified by his surname Kang, 52, was found hanging from a tree on a hill near an indoor gymnasium on the island of Jindo, where parents of the students missing from the sunken ferry are staying.



SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A government office says a South Korean passenger ship carrying about 470 people has sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began leaning to one side.

South Korean media, including Yonhap news agency, say passengers were asked to jump overboard with life vests as the ship was on the verge of sinking. News reports say about 120 people have already been rescued.

The Busan Regional Maritime Affairs & Port Administration says in a statement that the ferry with 471 people was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call Wednesday morning.
 
In the government’s latest tally, South Korea says 280 people from the ferry that capsized in the Yellow Sea south of Seoul are still missing and five people have died.

The vessel ‘Sewol’ was delayed two hours at the Incheon seaport last night due to foggy weather. The ministry reports that at 8.58am KST the coast guard received a distress call and within two hours the ship was capsized.

While the exact reason behind the incident is still being investigated, survivors are saying they heard a loud “boom” – which is what many believe caused the ferry to submerge. Following the noise, passengers say they saw cranes toppling over.

According to those rescued, the boat’s intercom system told everyone to stay calm and remain where they are for their “safety,” even restricting those who wanted to go out from leaving. It was not until the room started flooding that the instructions changed. Due to the pressure and force of the water, doors were almost too heavy to open while many shouted to “break the windows.” Apparently, the PA system told those already outside to jump into the water.

A witness who narrowly escaped says that he thinks there were 30 people still trapped in the area he was able to get away from.

Many suspect that the unaccounted for are stuck within the boat with South Korean analysts saying there is approximately 72 hours before they run out of oxygen.



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