BY CHARLES KADAMANA
IMMEDIATE families of the 27 people who lost their lives in a tragic sea disaster onboard MV Taimareho are pursuing legal action.
Vice Secretary of Victims Custom Compensation Committee Venasio Huniehu said they have engaged a private law firm to proceed with their case.
The families are taking legal against five defendants; the West Are Are Constituency shipping, the charterer MP John Maneniaru, MV Taimareho, SIMSA, captain Galo and captain Malepa.
Huniehu said in their legal suit they claimed $250,000 for expectancy of dependency, $100,000 for expectancy of life and $50,000 for special expense.
This totals up to $400,000 per life.
He said since the incident happened on April 3, 2020, they have submitted their claim of $250,000 for each life to the shipping company but to no response.
He said because of that they are pursuing legal action against the five defendants.
He said previously the committee was represented by three people which include the Chairman Michael Konia, Secretary Casper Faásala and Vice Secretary Venasio Huniehu.
Huniehu said as of now immediate families of the 27 people will all be represented in the legal suit against the five defendants.
According to a report from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development released on May 30, 2020 it found that:
- The ship set sail despite a tropical cyclone category 1 existed in Solomon Islands and warnings were issued by the Solomon Islands Government through the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA), Solomon Islands Port Authority, and Solomon Islands Meteorological Services (SIMA) as early as 15:00hrs on Thursday, 2nd April 2020.
- The incident occurred at 0220hrs on Friday, 3rd April 2020 at an estimated position of Latitude 09’22’.9 South and longitude 160’ 42’.8 East and it occurred as a result of gusty cyclonic wind and very high swells in which 27 passengers were washed overboard.
- MV Taimareho departed without the clearance of the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA) Boarding Officer.
- MV Taimareho sailed without any clearance of the boarding officer and with the knowledge of the existence of the category 1 cyclone.
- The ship on 2nd April 2020, held a valid safety certificate however, the shipowner and master did not comply with the requirements of the safety certificate.
- The master of the ship also did not prepare and ensure that the following documents; Voyage Plan, Night Order, and Log Book were on board the vessel.
- MV Taimareho according to the safety certificate required a total of 30 crews; however, the ship only has a total of 13 crews and 10 supporting staff on board at the time of the incident.
- The conditions of the life rafts were in a good state however, as a result of lack of knowledge that passengers were overboard, the life rafts were not deployed.
In light of these findings the Board concluded
(a) That the Shipowner and Master violated the following:
(1) Sections 78 (1) and (2) of the Shipping Act 1998;
(2) Sections 8 (1) and (2) of the Shipping Act 1998;
(3) Sections 115 (1) and (3) of the Shipping Act 1998;
Meanwhile, section 78 (1) of the Shipping Act 1998 states “Neither the owner nor master shall permit more persons to be carried in a vessel than the number stated in the passenger ship safety certificate issued in respect of the vessel as being the maximum number of persons that may be carried in the vessel.
Section 78 (2) stated; “Every owner and the master of the vessel who contravenes this section each commit an offence, and each shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars and to a further fine of not more than two hundred dollars for each person carried on board the vessel in excess of the number stated in the passenger ship safety certificate.”
Sections 81 (1) (c) however states every vessel is unsafe if –the vessel is overloaded or improperly loaded and section 81 (2) states “Where an unsafe vessel goes to sea, every person who knowingly sends, and the master who knowingly takes, the unsafe vessel to sea commit an offence, and each shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding sixty thousand dollars.
Section 115 (1) states “No person shall be employed on a vessel as a seaman unless there is in force an employment agreement approved by the principal shipping officer, in writing in the English language, between the owner, or licensed shipping agent, or master and the seaman which agreement maybe-
(a) With respect to employment in one or more vessel; or
(b) For a particular period not exceeding one year; or
(c) For one or more particular voyages.
Section 115 (3) however states every person who acts in contravention of subsection (1) or subsection (2) commits an offence, and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars.