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German freighter sinks Indian frigate

The Local · 3 Feb 2011, 17:42

Published: 03 Feb 2011 17:42 GMT+01:00

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The ocean liner Nordlake, based in Hamburg and managed by the Klaus E. Oldendorff shipping company, crashed into the Indian navy vessel Vindhyagiri in a narrow navigation channel at the entrance to the port of Mumbai on Sunday, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

The nearly 400 people on board the Vindhyagiri – including the ship’s crew and their visiting families, who were celebrating Navy Day – were successfully evacuated before a massive fire broke out on the vessel some 12 hours later.

"When the collision happened, there was a hole in the boiler room and that is where the fire started. All the people were evacuated as it was close to the shore.

Unfortunately the fire could not be doused, so the ship has sunk," deputy police commissioner for the Mumbai port zone, Qaiser Khalid, told NDTV.

The warship, now touching bottom in less than seven metres of water, has 300 tonnes of fuel on board. However, the Mumbai Port Trust says there is little danger of an oil spill, and regular operations at the port have not been affected.

A preliminary investigation found that the Nordlake was exiting the harbour as the Vindhyagiri was navigating its way in. The Nordlake swerved to avoid another ship and subsequently struck the Vindhyagiri, the broadcaster said.

The Indian navy called the sinking of the Vindhyagiri India’s greatest peacetime casualty, noting that a frigate has never been sunk by a civilian vessel.

Built in 1981, the Vindhyagiri suffered extensive damage, but the navy said the ship could possibly be repaired and eventually brought back into service.

The nearly 180-metre-long Nordlake, which flies a Cypriot flag, did not sustain any serious damage. The freighter supports an international crew, and no Germans were on board at the time of the crash.

“We are happy that, to our current understanding, the accident has caused neither environmental harm nor any human casualties,” Peter Rybarczyk, chief executive of the Klaus E. Oldendorff shipping company, told Hamburg broadcaster NDR.

The Director General of Shipping in Mumbai has ordered an inquiry into the collision, NDTV reported, while the navy has also filed a complaint that argues the ship from Cyprus did not follow standard operating procedure.

Story continues below…

The captain and crew of the merchant vessel were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 280 (rash navigation of vessel), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 427 (mischief causing damage), deputy police commissioner Khalid told NDTV.

The Board of Inquiry is investigating the cause of the crash using video of the moments leading up to the collision, including footage captured by visitors aboard the ship.

The sunken frigate will be lifted from the sea floor, according to NDTV, after which the Board of Inquiry will assess the damage and determine if the Vindhyagiri can be made seaworthy again.

The Local/adn

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

22:32 February 3, 2011 by Eugene_ac
Was this a declaration of war from Germany towards Great Britain again? Man, I have to work next week
23:31 February 3, 2011 by jamesbondking
No its gonna be the vedic age clasing with the aryans
05:43 February 4, 2011 by wood artist
To say the least, this investigation has "interesting" written all over it.

Obviously something went wrong, but there are apparently at least three ships involved, not to mention the harbor controllers. Since it's the Indian Navy in one vessel, almost any outcome could be suspect. It's far easier to blame a foreign vessel, right?

Did the ships have pilots on-board? In the US, the pilots would be the ones giving the orders regarding course, speed, etc, so the ship's captain has little to do with it.

I'm not judging anything yet, but...I'll be watching with interest.

10:26 February 4, 2011 by raukey
such boring comments over a tragedy. Anything could have had happened including death of more then 400 people on-board on various ships.

@ wa: you are suspecting too much without any reason and facts. your comment is so unspecific, unrelated, uninteresting and imaginary. Please read through the lines carefully. Peter Rybarczyk has said - We are happy that, to our current understanding, the accident has caused neither environmental harm nor any human casualties. kind of admission of guilt over collision. have there been anything else there would have been lot of noise... Moreover the inquiry is on and there are video of crash available. So no naive conclusions without facts being known.
11:16 February 4, 2011 by SteveK
@ wood artist:

The Captain is still responsible for this accident. At no time is a Pilot EVER in command. He is simply an advisor to the Captain, or if a Captain takes ill then to the next highest ranking officer.

The Pilot might give a course to steer for the helmsman and engine orders but if the Captain is not happy with the Pilots performance he steps in. Even if the vessel has an accident with a Pilot onboard, the Captain takes the blame. So the Captain does not have little to do with it, in fact he has everything to do with it.

And in the case of collisions between ships, there is never 100% blame apportioned to one vessel. It is always split. So in this case it is very likely it was not only the German vessel at fault.
12:06 February 4, 2011 by nish4u

INDIA is a free country!! almost 65 years now :) .. read some history dude :)
12:57 February 4, 2011 by freechoice
if battle cruisers can be easy be sliced by a freighter, one wonder why we need so many battleships?
14:51 February 4, 2011 by Nemesis
The captain needs to be told off and be made sure he undersands he is not to re-enact the attack on the Admiral Hipper by the HMS Glowworm everytime he sees a military ship:)

Also he needs to realise that commanding a German ship, he is to be rammed, not the other way around:)
19:40 February 4, 2011 by polecat
Germany never declared war on Britain. Britain always declared war on Germany, Eugene-ac.
17:58 February 5, 2011 by parografik
Well, that changes everything.
12:23 February 6, 2011 by wood artist

The statement you quoted says nothing of guilt, nor innocence. I'm glad there weren't casualties too, and that harbor has seen it's share of environmental disasters. Back in the days of WWII you can read about the great explosion that basically totaled the entire harbour.

That issue aside, although there witnesses, video, and the like, the story will be very convoluted. Look at the investigation into the collision of the Stockholm and the Andra Doria. They were at sea, and in some fog, but otherwise the situations might be very similar. Both ships had radar, both ships knew the other was there, both ships had people standing watch who were alert and awake. Both ships had good quality quartermaster's logs that showed every speed and rudder order. Even with all that, the inquiry never determined what went wrong. The fact was the Stockholm planted its bow firmly in the side of the Doria and ripped her open, caused her to sink with great loss of life.

This one might be easier, but I'd be willing to bet there isn't a clear-cut answer. As SteveK observed, it's likely not going to be a "You're at fault and nobody else is" answer.


You're correct, however, given the narrow spaces and (probably) limited time frame, the captains might well have struggled to "repair" the damage if a pilot's direction was wrong. In any case, it's a tough situation for everybody...sailing in confined spaces always is.

13:43 February 6, 2011 by SteveK
@ Wood Artist

It doesn't matter if there were 'narrow spaces and (probably) limited time frame', the Captain should have taken action the moment he was not happy with the situation and consequently if he does not, the book stops at him. Yes it's a complicated situation but ultimately the Captain are the ones in command and that's why they get the big bucks!
19:23 February 6, 2011 by wood artist
Let's just agree to disagree, and the watch to see further developments. In either case, it should be...erm...interesting.

17:32 February 7, 2011 by DOZ
Guess the Beer was never on the Train after all.
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