Last week, IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim (pictured) expressed concern about the fire on board the ropax ‘Euroferry Olympia’.
He said; ”I express my deep concern regarding the incident involving the fire on board the ro-ro ‘Euroferry Olympia’ on 18th February, near the island of Corfu in the Ionian Sea, while en route from Igoumentisa, Greece to Brindisi, Italy.
“I wholeheartedly appreciate the efforts of the search and rescue authorities of Greece, as well as nearby merchant ships, for the rescue of more than 275 people and the ongoing work to locate a number of missing people.
“I am saddened to learn of a confirmed fatality. I convey my condolences to all who have been impacted by the loss. We are closely monitoring the situation as it evolves.
“I look forward to receiving the investigation report into this incident in due course,” he said.
IMO’s sub-committee of Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) is engaged in ongoing work to minimise the incident and the consequences of fires on ropaxes.
At the time of writing, around 10 persons were still missing from the ship.
‘Euroferry Olympia’ has been towed to Agapitos where the search will continue for the missing people.
The Italian-flagged ropax was about 10 miles north of Corfu when the fire started in one of the ship’s three garage decks.
Her operator, Grimaldi Group, reported that the vessel was carrying 239 passengers and 51 crew members along with 153 commercial vehicles and 32 passenger vehicles at the time of the fire. Many of the passengers were truck drivers.
In a statement dated 20th February, Grimaldi Group, responded to allegations from the Greek Union of Professional Truck Drivers that the vessel was in poor condition, claiming that the ferry had undergone a Port State Control inspection, including her smoke detection and firefighting systems, on 16th February.
The company also stressed that passenger access to the garage decks is strictly forbidden during sailing times, according to international safety regulations.
“If any truck driver decides fraudulently to hide himself in his truck, this behaviour is a flagrant offence against International Regulations and Grimaldi rules, which can put at risk his own and the ship’s safety,” the company said.
Grimaldi Group has appointed Dutch company SMIT Salvage, part of Boskalis, to undertake salvage operations.
Meanwhile, the 35th anniversary of another ropax disaster will be marked on 6th March.
The families of those who perished on the ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ are to join a special service organised by the Sailors’ Society.
The names of all 193 passengers and crew lost shortly after the ropax left Zeebrugge in Belgium when the vessel capsized will be read out during the service to be held in Dover.
Many of those on board had taken advantage of a newspaper promotion offering cheap trips to the continent. All but seven of those who died when the ferry sank in just 90 seconds were British.
Sailors’ Society chaplains comforted and supported families and survivors affected that night. Every year since, the charity has organised a memorial service and the prayers that follow at the seafront close to the port of Dover, where the first families gathered for news 35 years ago.
Last year the pandemic meant families had to join a shortened service via Zoom. But this year families will be able to gather together again.
Sailors’ Society’s CEO, Sara Baade, said: “We are only too aware how important this time can be for the families, but we are equally aware that for some the journey to Dover may no longer be possible, so we will be broadcasting the service live for anyone who cannot attend in person.
“For 35 years this tragedy has remained in the hearts of everyone affected, including our chaplains who comforted and supported the families and survivors. This memorial service gives us the chance to join with families in remembrance not only of the loved ones lost, but the many heroic acts of crew and passengers that night,” she said.