Aging Freighter With History of Deficiencies Sinks in Aegean


Published Nov 26, 2023 10:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

A Comoros-flagged bulker with a history of serious inspection deficiencies has gone down off the island of Lesbos, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard. 

On Sunday morning, the freighter Raptor was under way from Dhekelia, Egypt to Istanbul, carrying 6,000 tonnes of salt. At about 0700 hours, as it was transiting about five nautical miles southwest of Lesbos, the Raptor reported a mechanical failure. At 0820, the crew made a mayday call and reported that they had taken on a list. Raptor disappeared from coastal monitoring services' radar shortly after. 

Raptor had 14 crewmembers aboard, including two Syrians, one Indian and 11 Egyptian nationals. One man, an Egyptian crewmember, was rescued from the water. The survivor was in good health, but was in a state of shock, officials told AFP. One deceased crewmember was recovered.

The search for further survivors is under way, with multiple good samaritan vessels and response agencies participating. Conditions on scene are challenging, with gale-force winds out of the northwest. A severe storm warning was in effect for the Aegean in connection with winter "Storm Bettina," which brought winds of up to Force 10 to Greece over the weekend,. 

The Raptor was a 6,300-tonne yard-and-stay geared general cargo ship built in 1984. Recent photos show that her gear was removed at some point after 2014. She had a history of inspection deficiencies, including an astonishing 65 problems recorded during an 18-day detention in Romania in August 2023.

Officials in Tulcea found faults throughout the ship, including missing certifications for the ships' officers, MARPOL irregularities, a broken emergency generator, missing firefighting gear, an inoperable EPIRB, expired charts, a broken HF radio, "holed" bulkheads, a "holed" hull, corroded hatch covers and damaged scuttles (below).  

Courtesy of Equasis (click to enlarge in new window)

A previous inspection in Turkey three years earlier had found similar problems, including improperly maintained hatches and decks "holed" by corrosion. 

The ship's owner is based in Egypt, and the firm owns two other general cargo vessels. Like Raptor, both are nearing the end of their fourth decade in service, and both have been detained within the last three years, according to the firm's Equasis records.

One of the owner's other vessels - the Manassa Moon M - was detained for cracked bulkheads, inoperable watertight doors and corroded ventilation systems in Piraeus in August 2023. The Moon M also broke down in the Dardanelles in 2022, requiring tug intervention.