SOCIETA' CAPITANI E MACCHINISTI NAVALI - CAMOGLI
THE FIRE – EXPLOSION – SINKING OF THE PETROL TANKER “HAVEN”
A BRIEF HISTORY
The petrol tanker “ HAVEN ” was seriously damaged during the Persian Gulf war between Iran and Irak, and had only just started to sail again after being pratically rebuilt, by a Singapore shipyard.
This dramatic photograph shows the “titanic” struggle, without any hope since the vessel was ungulfed by a horrific wall of dense smoke and flames. This demonstrates that even with the help of the fire brigades very modern and well equipped tug boats, it was against uncontrollable forces of such gigantic size ships.
The road of Arenzano ( Genoa ): The “HAVEN” in agony.
The voyage that had brought her to Genoa , was her second maiden voyage. The “ HAVEN” had loaded 220.000 tons of Iranian Heavy Oil from the Kharg Island terminal in the Persian Gulf . She unloaded 80.000 tons in a normal way, at the artificial island at Genoa Multedo, which is the Genoa Petrol port (west side). Then she moved to anchorage some 2.5 miles near Arenzano, awating orders to unload the remaining product she still had in her tanks.
POSITION OF THE DISASTER
At 11.30 hours in those tranquil Riviera roads, all hell suddenly exploded. The vessel caught fire thereafter sinking, killing some crew men, provocating an echological disaster that had never happened before in Italy. It was marine tragedy which heavily struck our beaches.
In the beginning the high infernal flames with black clouds of acrid smoke, covered the sky for a long time, creating panic and amazement amongst the population. Straight away the fuel starting leaking, forming a long slick which unfortunately, invested the surrounding beaches creating an economic crisis on the whole of the western Ligurian region.
The “Haven”taken at actual moment of sinking
The technical surveys, on the disasters' causes, requested by the competent Authorities, were numerous and in contrast between the parties. Faithful to our role of simple writers, we limit ourselves at this moment, to report the declaration released by the Chief Officer of the ship: Donatos Lolis, the person responsible for loading the “ HAVEN ” , to the newspaper “Il Secolo XIX” after this fortunate rescue from the sea on fire, carried out by the port pilot and his helmsman.
“In that moment the crude oil was being transferred from the bow to the central tanks. The damage could be verified in the pump gears (pump room located where the tanks terminates in the stern) and the flames going along the load lines, could have reached the stern tanks and alighted a second fire”.
THE TESTIMONY OF A REAL SEAMEN
From the many articles reported by the media regarding the “ HAVEN ” we have chosen the report given to the RAI (Italian radio TV) of the Pilot on duty Gian Carlo Cerutti.
A series of photographs taken the day after the explosion, by the writer, the “Haven” still burning with her cargo. The writer was on duty at the Petrol port and recorded this event, which is self explanatory.
Numerous inquests on this tremendous tragedy, were based on his evidente, which at the time, was considered as a documental basis. The reconstruction of the events and above the all salvage operations carried out by the pilot and his helmsman are related without any emphasis as to the difficulties faced making it hard to appreciate the courage and fortitued exercised by these men, fighting to extricate from the flames and death, 18 human beings who were completely covered in black oil, thereby being very slippery.
It's well known, every real seamen is of few words and unwilling to voice his sentiments, but during the interview it came to the surface the pilots' profound regret, with an expression of pain in his face, of how much it cost him to have to abandon other seamen to their destinies amongst the flames.
The day after, when Cerutti returned to Genoa for a briefing and to be congratuleted, he said to his colleagues: “ the pilot boat was already overloaded, above all limits, and even the dragging along of another victim could have provocated our boat sinking”.
RAI : “ Let's go back to those dramatic moments and come back with Captain Gian Carlo Cerutti, Pilot of Genoa Port , who was the first to arrive with the pilot boat at the place of the explosion and who was able to save a lot of men from the flames. Captain Cerutti, how do you remember those moments?”
Pilot : “ I was in service at the Petrol Port of Multedo. At 12.35 hours I picked up, via the VHF radio a May-Day signal (a danger signal and need of rescue) from a vessel and straight away a clear message announcing: “I have fire on board”.
RAI : “There was a fire on board before the explosion on board?”
Pilot : “At 12.35 hours we intercepted this signal and a moment later I asked the name of the vessel. The Captain gave me the name of the vessel “ HAVEN ” and reported: “I have fire on board!”. With the helmsman mr. Elvio Parodi, who was in on duty, we departed straight away on the pilot boat at full speed close the ship.”
RAI : “How much time did you take to get there?”
Pilot : “15 minutes. At 12.50 hours we were close the ship.
RAI : “What did you see?”
Pilot : “There was an enormous fire at the bow and the beginning of a fire on strens' command bridge. The centre deck bridge seemed untouched, although wind therefore fanning the tongues of flames.
RAI : “Did you see any shipwrecked throw themselves into the sea?”
Pilot : “No. When had arrived under the “ HAVEN ” there wasn't anyone in the sea. I spoke to the Captain who was probably on the vessels' command bridge and he asked me to send a helicopter to save the crew. Then I made contact with the direction of Petrol Port of Multedo and with the Port Authority. They made arragements. I also suggested that they send the Marine militare helicopters based at Luni.”
RAI : “But then there wasn't any time?
Pilot :” Yes. Then they arrived. However, we had realized that if the helicopters had been in zone, they would not have been able to operate above the vessel, because the fire was too vast, to work in a hovering position would mean that the helicopters would be burnt. Then I suggested to the Captain to lower the life boats – it was 12.51 hours. Then, the helmsman and I agreed to make a trip around the vessel, in searce of any shipwrecked sailors, but at that moment there wasn't anyone in the sea.
At 12.53 hours whilst I was in contact with the Captain, a tremendous explosion erupted. It seemed that the vessel had broken into two. Very quickly white hot pieces of steel blew out like balls of fire, throwing out trailers very rapidly, fallino a few meter from our pilot boat.
I wasn't able to make contact with the Captain. The vessel was completely engulfed in a cloud of smoke which streched from bow to stern”.
RAI : “Did the sailors jump overboard?”
Pilot : “With the pilot boat we straight went to the stern of the vessel”.
RAI : “ Was there any oil leaking into the sea”?
Pilot : “Only after the explosion at the bow end did the very inflammable product start to leak. We proceeded to the stern thinking that the crew would try to save themselves by jumping into the sea from the stern, As a result we were able to save 18. Regrettably, we saw 3 men burning 5 metres from the boat. Between us there was a wall of fire. Our pilot boat was near sinking under the weight of 20 persons. The 18 we had on board were injured and in a state of shock. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything we could do for the others.”
RAI : “You didn't hear anything more from the Captain?”
Pilot : “No, with the Captain I lost contact. Most probably, he died in the explosion and comunication via VHF radio was interrupted.”
RAI : “We thank Captain Cerutti for his recalling of the truly dramatic event that has ingulfed Genoa .”
The crew was composed of 37 men (10 Greeks, 2 Indians, 23 Filippini, and 2 from Sri Lanka ).
MISSING AND DEAD
2 bodies were picked up out of the sea. 4 persons reported missino (Captain Petros Grigorakis of 47 age, was listed as missing).
The service “reports” have to be necessarily clear and concise with only essential details, but this that follows, respecting the professional dialect, has been able to reflect and transmit the anxiety felt and the dramatic moments which were hours of hell.
Captain Francesco Capato actual Director of the Company Riorchiatori Riuniti, is the author of this important document.
At 12.20 with the tug we positioned ourselves between the helm and the propeller of “Haven” and passed a messenger to the fireman's motorvessel, who managed to pass the steel cable around the helm. This operation took only a few minutes which seemed like hours, in that situation with the suffocating smoke and heat, and continual explosions. We joined three propilene cable to the steel cable from about 220 meters, and then another and brought them to the started to pull her very gradually and at low speed bringing her towards the spot previously decided upon where we arrived in position at 18.55. Saturday morning the huge explosion took place. The tug at the stern end with more than 400 meters of cable extension of the fire. The containing operations continued assistance with the antipollution tugs of Castalia, maintaining the breakdown in position………”
Resulting from this event the following were awarded:
THE GOLD MEDAL FOR MARINE VALOUR
to Pilot Gian Carlo Cerutti
to Helmsman Elvio Parodi
Capt. Carlo Cerutti, the heroic Pilot of the Port of Genoa
THE SILVER MEDAL FOR MARINE VALOUR
To the crew of Tug Boat “ ISTRIA ” for their courageous work.
The M/t "Istria"
The “Haven” had loaded in the Persian Gulf 220.000 tons crude oil. Unloaded at the Artificial Island at Multedo 80.000. During the fire, estimated burnt about 40.000. The amount that landed on Riviera beaches 10.000 tons. It is estimated that in the wreck now at a depht of 70 meters on seabed, there should be, eleven years later, 90.000 tons of crude oil.
President of the Society of Sea Captains and Naval Engineers - Camogli