I am still unclear whether precise figures for those who were aboard and those who died can be determined. The passenger manifest seems to have been incomplete and illegal stowaways were known to be aboard. There were nearly 500 crew and passengers and it has been reported that 12 died, but maybe as many may still be missing. Two Albanian tug-men were killed during rescue and salvage attempts.
Italian and Greek authorities have both opened a criminal investigation. The ship had just been inspected at Patras on 19 December and the six serious deficiencies found, involved emergency lighting, fire doors and lifesaving capacity. Notice had been given of 15 days to remedy the deficiencies. Both Italian and Greek (Greek Anek Lines were chartering the ship) authorities are involved. There are reports that the sprinkler system emitted little or no water, but pumped out smoke, while the system’s water intakes in the hull may have been clogged with sea-life.
Rear Admiral John Lang, formerly Chief Inspector at Britain’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch, has been quoted as saying: “The emergency, under freezing stormy conditions at night - challenges many of the established conventions and wisdom on how a mass rescue should be conducted…” saying that “the right rather than the convenient conclusions should be drawn”.
He added crucially…”Rarely has the outcome of a comprehensive and thorough investigation been more important for improving safety at sea.”
Elsewhere, the implications of ro-ros with multiple decks bearing increasing numbers of powerful electric-hybrid and gas fuelled vehicles, is also being considered, hopefully with urgency. And I hope the feasibility of extinguishing such a fire in a gale on an open-sided ship like Norman Atlantic is given appropriate scrutiny. The ship burned for nearly two further weeks after being docked in Bari…