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ITF Wins Compensation for Survivor of Bourbon Rhode Sinking

bourbon rhode
Survivor Yevgeniy Nikolov recuperates from injuries sustained in the sinking of the Bourbon Rhode (ITF)

Published Sep 21, 2021 6:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

One of the three survivors from the sinking of the OSV Bourbon Rhode has won compensation for injuries sustained in the casualty, according to the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). 

On September 25, 2019, Bourbon Rhode was transiting the mid-Atlantic when she encountered strengthening winds from Hurricane Lorenzo - a Category 3 storm. She did not alter course. According to an investigation by her flag state of Luxembourg, the OSV began to sustain serious flooding from leaking hatches in her Z-drive compartment as boarding seas came onto her back deck. The crew attempted to seal off the leaks and dewater the compartment, but their efforts were not successful. Progressive flooding eventually disabled her engines, leaving her adrift and listing. She finally sank on the afternoon of the 26th; three out of 14 crewmembers were rescued alive, along with four bodies, but the remaining seven were never found.

Survivors and former crewmembers told investigators that the vessel was not in fit condition prior to her final voyage. According to the report, the vessel was carrying a supernumerary shipfitter to carry out "steel works that had not been completed at the shipyard," and a senior member of the engineering crew allegedly informed the operator that "the technical condition of the ship would not allow it to cross the Atlantic."

Ukrainian seafarer Yevgeniy Nikolov was one of the lucky few who survived the ordeal, but he was injured in the escape. According to ITF, he couldn’t face working at sea again after the shipwreck. He attempted to recover damages from the shipowner, alleging that the vessel was not seaworthy or safe for the weather conditions found in the mid-Atlantic. Nikolov's efforts were not successful, so he turned to the Marine Transport Workers’ Trade Union (MTWTU) of Ukraine, an ITF affiliate. 

The MTWTU and its law firm quickly convinced the company to pay Yevgeniy a "substantial amount" in compensation for his experience, the union said.

"We were quite radically minded discussing the strategy, given that the company kept ignoring open negotiations for one and a half years. However, it is noteworthy that the company acted quickly as soon as it found out that Yevgeniy’s interests were represented by the MTWTU," said union chairman Oleg Grygoriuk. "Our global solidarity implies a certain authority and reputation. This case shows why it pays to be with an ITF union."