After the refusal of the engine crew of the m/v Taganroga to continue the voyage due to the poor technical conditions of the vessel, the shipowner, the EM-Shipping company from Vladivostok, changed the crew. Instead of all the engineers and motormen who had been signed off upon their own request, the former crew took over the ship. Unlike the crewmembers who refused to proceed to voyage as the vessel was unseaworthy, the old «new» crew did not see any special problems. The company believed the same.
According to Petr Osichanskiy, an ITF inspector in the Far East, the EM-Shipping DPA’s assured him that there is no risk for the crew associated with the passage of the Taganroga to the next destination port. The main engine and diesel generators were working correctly. Taganroga, which had been laid up since September 3, returned to the port of Vladivostok allegedly because the company, which intended to buy the tanker for sale, did not fulfill the terms of the contract. Therefore, the ship called the port of Vladivostok to update the documents of the Russian shipping register (RS) as the vessel has changed the flag from the Russian tricolor to the flag of Sierra Leone, so the reason was not caused by the technical problems.
However, according to Yulia Yarchenko, senior assistant of the Primorsky transport Prosecutor, m/v Taganroga was brought to the port exactly because of the order of the Tansport prosecutor.
Federal Agency for Transport Supervision will also be involved in solving the problem of the tanker, and after finding out all the details of what is happening, a proper assessment will be given.
«The role of the Transport Prosecutor's office here was the most important as even at night the vessel was brought to the inner harbour, – says Petr Osichanskiy. – In order to bring the vessel to the port at 02: 30, after completion of custom’s clearance, someone's strong pressure was required. And this pressure was from the Prosecutor's office».
EM-Shipping told the ITF inspector that the Taganroga (flag of the Russian Federation, IMO 8129606, built in 1983) was also inspected by representatives of the port state control (PSC).
Petr Osichanskiy explained that even the technical deficiencies on board are found, they will be fixed quietly and without publicity, moreover, Taganroga will never be set for repair. As soon as the company receives the permission from the register for a one – time voyage (and they will undoubtedly be received), the ITF inspector is sure that the vessel will be scrapped.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Eng Roman Tokmadiev, who refused to continue voyage on board the distressed vessel, as well as other members of the engine crew, when asked why he agreed for passage to the next port, said that they knew nothing about the condition of the ship, and they had almost no opportunity to check everything.
«I joined the ship a day before her departure, the operation of the mechanisms was checked without load since the ship was on shore power. And the Chief Eng. arrived on board on the night of August 28th and in the morning began to take over duties».
Roman is an experienced engineer with more than 10 years of experience. He was attracted by a short contract – only 18 days and a very decent payment for such a period – about $ 3,000. Plus, it was an opportunity for him to work on a large ship and gain a qualification above 3000 kV to improve his diploma. To do this, he needed only two contracts on bulk carriers with a main engine of 3000 kW, so Taganroga was also suitable for him in these parameters.
However, the reality was not so rosy. Taganroga set sail on August 29 without proper taking over of the vessel, everything happened very quickly, probably so that the new crew did not have time to understand the situation
«Cleaning the refrigerator of oil and fresh water of the main engine before departure was not carried out so when out to sea it was found that the valve supply-diversion of sea water on the fridge did not hold. While trying to remove the cover of the refrigerator of fresh water began to drown the engine, then there were the first doubts that the voyage could last much longer», - Roman noted.
At the same time, the crew was not provided with the contracts of employment, the seafarers were promised to get their copies of documents directly on board the Taganroga.
As explained by Petr Osichanskiy, this practice is very common in shipping companies in the Russian Far East. The seafarers are promised to be provided the signed contract on board the ship, and there, when they ask for their copy of the contract, they are told that it should have been taken on shore as there is no contract on the board.
Roman's voyage did not last long, only six days. When Taganroga went beyond the 12-mile zone, problems began.
The diesel generators overheated, the ship de-energized and the vessel began to drift towards North Korea. It took three days to solve problems, somehow started the main engine, came to the port of Zarubino and anchored at the roadstead.
Roman says that at that moment he realized that Taganroga was in a terrible technical state and to continue the voyage on board of such a ship was like signing a death sentence. The vessel constantly used to de-energize and could easily sink
«There was a question how to sign off without problems. Borders were closed, the captain pressed not to return to Vladivostok. He asked to go to the 12-mile zone and if the problems appear, we will advise the shore. But there communication was restricted in this zone, and there was no guarantee that the captain will allow access to the satellite communication channel»
Due to the unseaworthy condition and the lack of sufficient fuel for the planned voyage, Taganroga was forced to return to the port of Vladivostok. On September 3, the Chief engineer sent a report to EM-Shipping in which he described in detail all the technical deficiencies: the generators were in the critical condition: when the load increases the oil pressure started to warm up and drops, the protection system was generated and the vessel de-energized. The main engine cylinder received water, the engine room dewatering pumps did not work, and the bilge water tank was full.
The crewmembers also contacted the Seafarers Union of Russia after EM-Shipping informed them that the company did not plan to arrange the repairs of the vessel.
In turn, the Seafarers Union of Russia sent the appeal to the Far Eastern transport Prosecutor's office and to the harbour master of the port of Vladivostok seaport, A.V. Vanyukov, with request to organize an inspection of the tanker and detain it in the port until all deficiencies, if any, are fixed. Otherwise, «the release of this vessel may lead to an emergency situation and, as a result, cause a threat to the life and health of crewmembers, as well as harm the environment», the SUR said in an appeal, a copy of which was also sent to the Border Department of the FSB of the Russian Federation for the Primorsky territory.
It should be noted that according to the database of the Russian Shipping register, the classification documents of the Taganroga and the ISM code certificate are suspended since their validity period has expired. In the Equasis database, the status of the tanker is indicated as subject to scrapping from August 24, 2020.