Merchant Vessel Found Guilty in Indian Navy Collision

Leander
Leander-class frigate, a sister ship of the Vindhyagiri (courtesy U.S. Navy)

By MarEx 2016-01-17 17:14:31

The London High Court ruled last week that the cargo vessel Nordlake bore most of the responsibility in the 2011 collision with Indian Navy frigate Vindhyagiri in Mumbai's harbor.

The Nordlake was assigned 60 percent of responsibility, Vindhyagiri 20 percent, and the merchant vessel Sea Eagle and one additional naval ship 10 percent each.

The Nordlake was guilty on several counts, the court said: a violation of the narrow channel rule, the requirement to keep safe speed and the maintenance of a proper lookout.

As Nordlake and Sea Eagle were the only claimants in the case, the court held that the Indian Navy was not a party and would not be responsible for damages.

The incident unfolded partly as a result of confusion over passing arrangements. On the afternoon of January 30, 2011, the Indian Navy frigate Vindhyagiri was entering Mumbai's harbor following a picnic excursion, followed by the Sea Eagle. In a series of misunderstandings regarding the traffic situation, the frigate and the outbound Nordlake collided. The Indian Navy's official First Information Report on the incident blamed the Nordlake for the collision, stating that she made a sharp turn to port and hit the Vindhyagiri. The Nordlake's captain, Slovakian national Petros Valneo, strenuously denied that his ship was at fault.

The collision led to fire and flooding onboard the Vindhyagiri. She was berthed in the naval harbor, ammunition on board was salvaged and personnel were evacuated, but despite efforts to contain the damage she sank at the dock. While a small spill was reported and contained, no casualities resulted from the incident.

Passengers and eyewitnesses captured the collision on video from several angles.

The Vindhyagiri was eventually salvaged and scrapped.

Following the incident, a court in Mumbai placed the Nordlake under arrest at the Indian Navy's request, citing the Navy's claim for $150 million in damages. A court of appeals reversed the decision in early 2012, ruling that the value of the bail required to secure her release could not exceed her value – assessed at a much lower $7 million.

The 20,000 dwt geared container vessel Nordlake (ex name Okinawa) was owned by Oldendorff at the time of the incident, according to public records. She has since been renamed the MSC Agata, and as of January 2016, she was trading along the coast of West Africa.