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Yangtze authorities to crack down on rule violations

29 May 2013
The Yangtze River Administration under the Ministry of Transport, the top regulator of China’s busiest waterway, has issued a directive to local port authorities and maritime safety authorities to tighten their grip on compliance of regulations, following a major collision involving four vessels in which all 20 crew members fell into the water and seven of them went missing (no further news has been published on the rescue operation in relation to the missing crew).

Initial investigations showed that all vessels involved in the collision had either overloaded or were short of the required minimum number of crew members. ‘Yuyang9999’, carrying 13,000 tons of iron ore upstream from Shanghai to Chenglingji at around midnight on 16 May, was only designed to carry 8,857 tons of cargo and needed to have a minimum of eight crew members. Instead, there were only five. It collided with a small ocean-going vessel ‘Zheding58650’ carrying 1,000 tons of steel downstream from Wuhu to Ningbo, 50 tons more than the vessel was designed to carry. The small vessel sank immediately. In its attempt to stabilise itself, Yuyang9999 hit another vessel, ‘Kangfa828’, which was carrying 8,000 tons of limestone powder, more than its designed capacity of 7,922 tons. The third vessel was sailing downstream to Zhangjiagang with only seven crew members rather than the eight required for a vessel of its size. A fourth vessel became involved when it collided with the sunken Kangfa828. It was carrying 1,850 tons of sulphur without appropriate shipping permits and its designed tonnage was 1,650 tons.

The official directive condemned these violations and said they were a direct cause of the serious accident. It urged all local port officials and maritime safety authorities to communicate better with shipping lines and crack down on any violations of safety regulations. It warned that those who overload, deploy insufficient crew numbers or fail to turn on AIS (automatic identification system) equipment as required will be severely punished.

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