ITALIAN classification society RINA has issued its preliminary technical report into the causes of the sinking of the Maltese-flag tanker Erika during a major storm in December. The results of the RINA internal technical investigation indicate that the Erika was presumably lost because an initial crack in the low part of the hull below the water line was misjudged and mishandled, allowing it to develop until the hull broke up eighteen hours later. The ship was not lost because of an overall hull girder collapse but because she suffered a progressive structural failure.
RINA’s report, jointly prepared with Three Quays Marine Services and Studio Tecnico Navale Ansaldo, says the crack may have originated from a defect or brittle fracture in way of the bilge. "Many cases are known of ships whose structures suffered cracks, but with proper handling, the situation was kept under control," says Nicola Squassafichi, managing director of RINA. "This crack, whatever its origin, could hardly have led, in eighteen hours, to the deterioration of the situation and the loss of the ship, in the absence of other contributory factors, in particular the mishandling of the ship and insufficient support from the shore."
Factors which are also deemed to have contributed to the ship loss are the loading sequence and resulting loading condition at departure, the effect of the heated cargo, the bad sea conditions during the last voyages, and the repairs carried out during her life. The events, which led to the loss of the ship and their sequence, highlighted the utmost importance of the competence and preparedness of the crew and the company in handling emergency situations. RINA is considering this issue in depth, with the view to proposing further improvements in the present requirements of the ISM Code and their implementation to the competent organisations.
More information: RINA