Confusion cause of fatal collision on the Scheldt?

by Hans | December 11th, 2010

The collision between a small dredger, and a heavy container ship on the Scheldt on Wednesday on which three men lost their lives may be the result of a communications error.

Wednesday evening, around 21.5 pm, came the small dredger, DN 31 of the company’s Jan de Nul to sink after colliding with the container ship Christal Topas. One of the crew members of the sunken ship, a 52-year-old man from Mol, was found death around 00: 40u and recovered by divers. For the two others, men of 50 from Melsele and 58 years from Kieldrecht, seems there is no hope anymore.

Confusion of languages as possible cause is a communication error at the base of the accident, because the pilot aboard the tanker Topaz Crystal and the skipper of the dredging boat DN 31 exchanged information before the collision.

The tapes of the VHF radio communications, who must confirm that conversation has been seized by the waterway police. The Nautical Commission at the Court of Commerce will investigate the tapes together with the radar images.

“Both vessels were heavily collided,” says Captain Eric Poirier from the Department of pilotage Antwerp.

“Probably the dredging was shaved by the bulbous bow of the tanker, after which both ships, each with its starboard side, clashed against each other. That happened in the middle of the fairway, where the DN 31 were working on it. The dredger, which is used in the approach channels of the locks to clean up the bottoms, immediately capsized.

Of the crew – who had just exchanged with colleagues from the day shift – is one man found in the wheelhouse. The wheelhouse door was open, which explains why the two others disappeared. The current flow would have carried their bodies to the Netherlands.

The pilot on board the British tanker was very skilful. He holds patents for the top category for vessels over 360 meters to accompany. The man was in shock and is taken care of.

Source: Gazet van Antwerpen / Photo: S.v.Hul

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