Explosives Experts Hired for Benita Salvage Effort
On Tuesday, local media in Mauritius reported that authorities have hired in marine salvage and demolition firm Demex International to assist with the removal of the grounded bulker Benita.
Demex's experience includes the explosive wreck reduction of the grounded vessels BBC China, Kipperousa, and Jolly Rubino; the demolition of two gantry cranes on the wrecked barge Poe Giant 12; the explosive unlashing of the barge carrier Margaret off South Africa; and multiple platform removal projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
The report said that lead salvors Five Oceans would use a combination of mechanical devices and towing to remove the grounded 45,000 dwt bulker from the rocks. Defi Media reports that the 100 ton bollard pull salvage tug Ionian Sea FOS is on site, stabilizing the Benita, and the 90 ton bollard pull Coral Sea FOS is under way from Fujairah and expected Thursday.
Separately, the investigation into the unusual circumstances of the grounding has been taken up by Mauritius' Criminal Investigation Division. The vessel's voyage data recorder is being analyzed by South African experts and by a representative of the Liberian registry (the vessel's flag state). Its contents are encrypted and will require expert service to remove and interpret. One aim of the investigation is to determine if the master of the Benita, Captain Eduardo Cadiz, had attempted to report the disruption on board to Mauritius' National Coast Guard in a timely manner.
Initial reports suggest that a brawl on board led to the grounding, and local media said that the fight was instigated by one member of the engine department, Omar Taton, who reportedly confessed to local police that he had assaulted a fellow crewmember, Alvin Maderse. Taton allegedly proceeded to turn off the Benita's engines and barricade himself in the engine room, leading to her grounding eight hours later. Taton has already been charged with aggravated assault and may also be charged with piracy.
On Thursday, the London P&I Club – the Benita's insurer – said in a statement that the vessel had grounded because "a crew member . . . suffered a serious medical episode which led to him attacking one colleague before causing extensive damage to the engine room systems that led to a loss of power to the vessel." The insurer said that "the injured crew member is receiving medical attention ashore for this seizure."