As an old Sea Captain an the Tankerman who spend a large portion of his professional life transporting crude oil and petroleum products through the sea, as a person who has some experience in a marine litigation, also as a merchant navy officer who worked for Mr. Kiriakou, I feel an urge to express my opinion.
There is perfectly obvious to me that digging graves of 29 men and women who died on Athenian Venture has only one reason – seeking for justice.
That one wasn’t served 20 years ago, there is no doubt in my mind about that.
I’m monitoring a case since very beginning, what means since I’ve read a first article about the catastrophe on a web site www.ostatnirejs.pl
I read everything I was able to put my hands on. There were a lot of articles in late 80-ies in Poland. Very different ones, no one was really objective, I’m sure of it, they were written fuelled either by emotions of some journalists, or money which Intestra SA, company representing Kiriakou’s interest in Poland, decided to pour fighting for it’s good name. I read also the report of the Cyprus Marine Investigation Inspector regarding whole case.
Taking all together I got, so far, a picture that whole case was the largest scum I have ever seen or heard.
Let’s start from beginning:
Mr. Kiriakou had very good relationship with the Polish Marine Industry, specifically with the P.Z.M. (Polish Steamship Co. in Szczecin). They helped him to purchase his first tankers from Russia, I also heard they provided some credits and arranged whole transaction using their own business connections in Soviet Union.
They sold him 8 years old tanker “Karkonosze” built in Swedish shipyard.
The first question appeared why that ship was built under care of two classification societies; Det Norske Veritas of Norway and the Polish Register of Shipping.
Normally that is very unusual, why pay both? Unless… tanker was built originally for different than PZM owner, which resigned from purchase. Such thing is very costly for quitter but in case of some serious technical difficulties is legally acceptable.
Then shipyard owns crippled vessel and must sell it very, very cheap.
The bidder was PZM.
I heard rumours that already during the virgin voyage some cracks on the midsection were observed and reported. In the same time PZM, decided to release DNV from responsibilities and left the vessel with PRS. Till the dead end, in fact.
The Athenian Venture received her last class confirmation in November 1987 from PRS, after repairs in shipyard in Greece. I don’t know if an inspection was done by PRS inspectors, or some local professionals were hired to act on behalf of the PRS.
It is very common practice. Nevertheless, m/t Athenian Venture was declared as a seaworthy and was back in oil trade.
I’ve learned, however, from letters of some crewmembers and from opinions of engineers working on that ship that there were always problems with leaking cargo, holes in the hull, cracks on deck and so on. Crack on deck is a very serious problem, is affecting a watertight integrity of the vessel and must be reported all the time to classification society. Ship is loosing her seaworthiness and repair must be done immediately under supervision of a classification society representative. Then, another inspection and another issue of the safety to navigate certificate is required.
My logic conclusion is that m/t Athenian Venture was experiencing serious technical problems prior to the catastrophe. According to dramatic letters from two seamen the worst was expected. One of the engineers testified that large quantities of steel plates were purchased in French port, welding rods and welding machines, as well. It was done in a presence of the superintendent from office in Piraeus, so there is no doubt that the owner knew a situation. Instead all of that, the order to continue a voyage was issued and the vessel left port of Amsterdam steaming into her grave.
Considering the fact that ship was experiencing with mentioned above technical difficulties when living Amsterdam and the owner knew that, one of the largest criminal act was committed. In a view of the maritime law – sending unseaworthy vessel into the sea is such crime.
Consequences of that are unbearable, if something happened insurance may not be paid, provisions of the charter party are not fulfilled and a responsibility for everything wrong what may happen are lies exclusively on the shipowner.
Including, full responsibility for death of a crew and loss of the vessel.
In my humble and professional opinion Mr. Minos Xenofont Kiriakou the Greek is responsible for both. He should pay.