x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Salvagers raise Dubai ship from seabed

Five survived and 30 were killed when the Demas Victory sank off Qatar, officials say but cause of accident remains under investigation.

ABU DHABI // A Dubai-registered ship that sank off Qatar last week was raised from the seabed yesterday and all the remaining bodies were recovered from the wreck, the vessel's operator said. Thirty crew members died when the 34-metre Demas Victory, a utility vessel providing services to the oil industry and run by the Midgulf Offshore Ship Chartering Company, capsized in heavy winds about 10 nautical miles off the coast of Doha early on Tuesday. Five survivors, including the captain, were rescued and by Friday, 19 bodies had been retrieved.

"The boat was floated last night and all the remaining bodies have been removed this morning," said Midgulf's general manager, George Mathew. The crew was made up of 19 Indians, 12 Nepalis, three Indonesians and a Bangladeshi. Four were Midgulf employees; the others worked for Doha-based HBK Power Cleaning, which chartered the ship. Investigators are seeking the cause of the accident, with teams from the Qatar Port Authority and Coastguard, as well as insurers, scouring the stricken craft for clues.

Salvagers found the vessel's hull undamaged, suggesting adverse weather conditions were the likely cause of the accident, Mr Mathew said. "There is no damage to the vessel's hull anywhere. "There is no hole or tear. The hull is in perfect condition. We assume that the cause of the accident is the weather, the swell and the wind, although we cannot reach a firm conclusion yet. "We need to wait for a couple of days. The inspection of the wreck will give us some clues. We also don't rule out an error on the part of the crew."

The Demas Victory was raised from the seabed by Mubarak Marine, a Dubai salvage and towing company. The salvagers turned the ship upright on the seabed, then used divers to pass slings around the hull. A floating crane lifted it to the surface, where the remaining water was pumped out. "There is no particular damage to the boat and it seems to have capsized due to the weather," said Juma Mubarak, the salvage company's managing director.

Meanwhile, the task of returning the bodies to their home countries has begun. "All the families of the dead have been informed," Mr Mathew said. "We are talking to them, and naturally they are very upset. We hope that by Wednesday three of the bodies will be repatriated." The body of one Midgulf employee, an Indian, was discovered in the vessel on Monday and is still going through Qatari government formalities before it can be released. The four Midgulf crew were insured and their families will each receive US$50,000 (Dh184,000) in compensation.

"This is the first accident of any type we have had. Until now, no crew member had suffered so much as a cut, and I was boasting about this," said Mr Mathew. "But when it came, it came big." The Demas Victory was built to withstand tough weather and was used between 1979 and 2003 near the Zirko oilfield off the Abu Dhabi coast, where Mr Mathew said the conditions were worse than those near Qatar. However, Qatar's north field, where the Demas Victory mainly was used, was known for its strong winds, he said.

Mr Mubarak said boats regularly sank in the Gulf because the weather was unpredictable and could turn violent without warning. "Sinking happens quite a bit," he said. "The majority are barges involved in development carrying rocks, and tugboats. Most of the incidents involve capsizing, perhaps as a result of a wrong manoeuvre by the ship's master. The largest number of casualties occur in capsizings."

Most accidents happened during the winter, he said, when the north-westerly shamal wind can whip up without warning and reach speeds of 50 knots, almost gale force, and create waves of up to four metres on the normally placid Gulf waters. Eight people died in February when the ferry Dhanna III capsized in bad weather while sailing from Mugharaq, on the western Al Gharbia coast, to Jurnain Island. There was only one survivor.

"The sea will never be free of accidents," Mr Mubarak added. tspender@thenational.ae