VOLGO-BALT 214 tragedy is a face of shipping in the Black Sea

The Volgo-Balt 214 disaster, claiming  the seafarers' lives, has uncovered the shipping problems  of the  Black Sea, which is well-known among the  unions and seafarers as  a sea of shame. 

The river-sea Volgo-Balt 214, flying under flag of Panama, sank off Turkey  on January 7, 2019. The bulker was heading to Samsun from Azov, Russia. After wave striking, Volgo-Balt 214 broke  in two near  the  Turkish coast. There were 13 crews, but  only seven were saved. The search and rescue  operations keep going. 

Volgo-Balt 214  was built  in 1978. An infamous Turkey-based Orbital Ship Management became her  last operator. By the  way,  the Turkish companies often buy  the  old Soviet-time vessels  and operate  them  to the utmost  in the  Black Sea. 

According to Equasis, Volgo-Balt 214 underwent last PSC inspection  in the Port of Azov  on December 23, 2018. At the  time  the  inspectors  found   only   seven deficiencies which  seemingly  didn't    prohibit the ship to go into the  fatal  voyage. 

Based on the Volgo-Balt 214  crew list, published in Internet, there were  two  welders  onboard, but  it was extremely  untypical for such small ships. If the  vessel was required two welders,  the  ship had terrible technical condition. More  likely,  the  holes were patching during the voyage.

Volgo-Balt 214 tragedy  is a face  of shipping in the  Black Sea, which was named as a sea of shame. Ships, operating in its  waters, do not meet safety requirements  and should be  out  of  service long ago. In addition, the  ships aren't  covered by the ITF collective agreement and, as a result, the  crews aren't  able  to rely on normal labour  conditions or wage guarantees or  compensation payments. 

The Orbital Ship Management  fleet consists  of  six Panama-flagged vessels: 1979-built Volgo-Balt 217, 1981-built Volgo-Balt 235, 1978-built Volgo-Balt 213, 1979-built Volgo-Balt 220, 1980-built Volgo-Balt 226 and 1980-built Volgo-Balt 227. 

All these  vessels several times changed  their  flags, companies or class societies. Most of them were detained  by port control authorities. Since 2014  crews of above mentioned vessels repeatedly  have applied for  help from the International Transport  Workers' Federation, Olga Ananina,  the  ITF  inspector  in Novorossiysk,  comments. Today the  bulkers operate under  flag of  Panama  and under  control of Orbital Ship Management.  All ships  are  old  and problematic. 

According to the  ITF data base, the  ITF inspectors in the  Black Sea region, including  from Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine  and Russia, took part in giving support to the crews working on  the Volgo-Balt fleet. The  wage  debts, low wage levels not  exceeding the  ILO rates, lack of provision, water, working wear or cleaning materials all of these are  normal for the rust buckets which sink every winter claiming seafarers' lives, - Ananina  says. 

The Seafarers' Union of  Russia strongly recommends  to  shy away from hiring on these ships. All these bulkers pose a danger  to navigation safety  and seafarers lives.