Cargo vessels 'are accidents waiting to happen'

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST 16 cargo ships from the former Soviet Union have been held at British ports this year because of severe safety defects, writes Nicholas Schoon.

The latest detention was this week, when the Baltiyskiy 27 arrived at Southampton.

She was found to lack essential charts and communication systems, her hatches were not watertight and there was a severe defect with her lifeboats. The Department of Transport's Marine Safety Agency has said the Russian vessel cannot leave unless repairs are made.

Bill Beck, the agency's chief surveyor for its southern and south-west district, said small Russian bulk carriers built for inshore and river trading but now visiting Britain were an accident waiting to happen. The home port authorities allow them to trade within 50 miles of shore.

Two had such severe defects, including hull cracks and widespread corrosion, that they had to be towed away from Britain.

The Donaldson report ends with a list of 37 incidents in UK waters which could have caused severe pollution or explosions. 'We were shocked to discover just how many potentially serious incidents there were,' it says. Among the catalogue of strandings, collisions, near misses and fires one incident in February could have poisoned much of Belfast when a ferry was blown into the gas carrier Coral Acropora during a Force 10 gale.

Had the Coral's gas tanks been breached the easterly wind would have carried 2,100 ton of highly toxic ammonia into the the city.