Ths Is Devon
The master of a cargo ship which struck a small fishing vessel, killing a 21-year-old crew member, is unlikely to be brought to justice despite damning reports of his conduct.
The body of Chris Wadsworth, from Teignmouth, South Devon, was never found following the collision in the Channel last winter.
Crewed by Chinese nationals, the 42,000-tonne Alam Pintar struck the Etoile des Ondes in waters off Cherbourg while en-route to Hamburg on December 20, 2009.
A Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report found that the crew ignored the crabber’s distress calls despite knowing there was a collision, and left them floating helplessly in the sea.
They then altered and adjusted documents to obscure any evidence and, when interviewed, the crew’s accounts conflicted with radar information.
The hull of the Alam Pintar was also inspected and amounts of blue paint from the fishing boat were discovered.
Devon & Cornwall Police investigated the sinking, but after taking advice from the Crown Prosecution Service revealed they have no jurisdiction over the incident because it occurred outside of UK territorial waters.
The Alam Pintar is a Singapore registered vessel and it was hoped that criminal charges would be brought by the country.
But leaked emails from an official at Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) have stated that they have found “no evidence of any criminal intent nor action”.
At most, the cargo ship’s officer of the watch – who according to MAIB was not qualified – is likely to be fined about £5,000 for breaching two aspects of their Merchant Shipping Regulations.
UK Shipping Minister Mike Penning has expressed his “shock” at learning of the circumstances surrounding the accident, which he said raised serious questions about the conduct of Alam Pintar’s crew.
He said: “In line with international convention, it will be for the authorities in the flag state to take appropriate action against those concerned.
“I would sincerely hope the gravity of this incident is fully reflected.”
Skipper Chris Bibb from Shaldon, near Torquay, Matthew Collins and Daniel Bruce, of Portland, Dorset, managed to scramble on to a life raft following the collision and were saved by the Norman Voyager ferry .
Numerous vessels nearby failed to respond to distress flares and mayday relays, despite their legal and moral duty to do so. Alam Pintar proceeded to its destination in Hamburg.
The MAIB report states: “The master of Alam Pintar failed to report the collision and denied knowledge of the incident to authorities. On arrival at Hamburg, documents and records were found to have been falsified or destroyed.”
Rob Simmons, the Teignmouth owner of the Etoile des Ondes, yesterday said he was “shocked” that nobody would be brought to justice.
He said: “I can’t believe that no action is going to be taken against the Master, it is shocking that nothing is likely to be done.”
Charles Hattersley, marine lawyer with Ashfords LLP who acted for the Etoile des Ondes, said: “To have falsified and destroyed documents to try and cover their tracks on top of everything else is a very serious offence.”
A statement from Malaysian Bulk Carriers, which operates Alam Pintar, confirmed that the master and the officer of the watch were suspended after the accident.
The family of Chris Wadsworth and the owners of the Etoile des Ondes previously reached a compensation settlement with the company for their loss.
Following the collision, Samantha Wadsworth described her brother’s “wonderful passion for life”.