Bulk carrier Focomar: crew still on island, the story is not over yet

Aug. 14, 2015 at 07:30 by Mikhail Voytenko in Accidents

Aug 14 0630 UTC: As of evening Aug 13, Focomar crew was still on Salhah island. Rescue hampered by adverse weather. It was said before, that the crew was to be picked up by a Japanese Navy ship. According to latest news, they’re to be evacuated by a local vessel, to be delivered to Salalah or to Socotra. Owner of the vessel can not be reached by relatives of the crew, all communications and updates are coming via crewing agency in Odessa, Ukraine.
Focomar is afloat under tow of Mubarak Challenger (IMO: 9542958), proceeding in general direction towards UAE. As of 1700 UTC Aug 13 caravan was some 160 nm east of Salalah, Oman. Focomar AIS is on.
I’m receiving rather strange letters from anonyms. One is writing from Italian address, asserting that the vessel was carrying arms of Russian origin. I asked correspondent to identify himself and give something more solid, than mere assumptions. No reply yet.
Another one wrote to me today, Aug 14. According to his letters, he’s engaged in crew rescue, crew is to be evacuated tomorrow or the day after tomorrow at latest, but for some reasons, he can’t yet identify himself. He also added, that the crew include only one Russian, Master of the vessel. The rest are mainly Ukrainians, several Filipino and Greeks. According to my information, which is unconfirmed (though cited in Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement dated Aug 12), crew includes 5 Ukrainians and 15 Russians, and some Filipino and Greeks. Nevertheless, anonym was right in mentioning Greek nationalities, no one else mentioned them before. Relatives of those two Greeks are calling me each day from Athens, because they can’t get in touch with the Greek owner of the vessel, so I’m about the only one source of information they have. Two Greeks on board supposedly, are technicians, not regular crew members, taken for technical maintenance purposes.
I do have already some confirmed information with regards to nationalities, from worried relatives. Master is Russian. Chief Officer, Chief Engineer and 4-th Engineer are Ukrainians.
What happened on board of the vessel, why so many puzzles and secrets, I don’t know. Arms trafficking seems to be no more than a speculation, at least basing on available information.
Maybe it was just that, an accident, caused by mechanical failures. Maybe there was a leak or something, and some kind of a panic, and that’s why the crew abandoned vessel, which didn’t sink and is now under tow. Maybe crew got angry with owner, who was trying to avoid salvage in order to save money. Maybe insurance was involved, considering general unsatisfactory condition of the vessel, and, according to several sources, regular mechanical failures and breakdowns, especially main engine.
The story is still a puzzle, a mystery with too many concealments and obscurities.
Mikhail Voytenko

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Bulk carrier Focomar: crew still on island, the story is not over yet

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