St Vincent Supports Taking Iraq Before ITLOS Over Dentention Of MV Royal Arsenal

Owners, managers, and insurers are exasperated that one year on, a St Vincent registered ship the MV Royal Arsenal and her crew remain under detention at Umm Qasr, Iraq, following a nighttime collision with a vessel owned and operated by the General Company Ports of Iraq (GCPI) in which there were 21 fatalities

Questions have been raised about the qualifications of the deck crew navigating the AL MISBAR and the adequacy of life-saving equipment for the number of passengers on board.

It has been reported that the reinsurers of the AL MISBAR have declined to pay the total loss claim due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel, and the GCPI have paid compensation to the families of the deceased. Surprisingly, there have been no resignations by GCPI senior management as a result of the incident.

Despite concerted and repeated efforts to work with the Courts, the GCPI and the families of the deceased crew members to resolve this matter, very little progress has been achieved, and the vessel, and more importantly crew, remain at Umm Qasr.

No quantified claims have been filed at Court, even 12 months after the incident, so it has not been possible for security for the claims to be provided to enable the ship and crew to leave.

As a result, Owners have been in close contact with St Vincent and the Grenadines Flag Administration who referred the case to this country’s Attorney General.

He has recently confirmed the support of St Vincent and Grenadines Government in bringing proceedings against the State of Iraq before ITLOS (International Tribunal Law of the Sea) in Hamburg.

This he said is due to the prolonged detention of the vessel and the apparent absence of an effective and responsive judicial system.’

‘Clearly, the GCPI view the application of the rule of law as an optional extra – Owners do not.’

Roy Khoury, Managing Director of the vessel’s managers, Blue Fleet Group said:

‘This is a most distressing situation. Every time we try and move towards a resolution, fresh obstacles are created. We want to work with the families and the GCPI in a constructive manner, but it is just not possible when the goal posts are moved at every turn.

MV Royal Arsenal was detained following a collision between the handymax vessel, with the compulsory Iraqi Pilot on board supervising the navigation, and a dive support craft ‘Al Misbar’, which was being used to ferry port employees from an offshore oil terminal.

To date, Owners have incurred expenses in excess of US$1.8 million, and lost a year’s income.

Source: MTI Network