Police Inspect Sydney Harbor Cruise Boats After Passenger Fatality

File image courtesy All Occasion Cruises

By The Maritime Executive 02-07-2019 01:31:20

Maritime authorities in Sydney, Australia have raided five harbor cruise boats in connection with the death of a passenger aboard the vessel Lady Rose last weekend. 

On Saturday afternoon, passenger Shalina Hussain, 39, was found unconscious in one of the Rose's heads. Paramedics could not revive her. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the New South Wales police are investigating whether sewage gas from the vessel's blackwater tanks may have been implicated in her death, and the raid sought to determine whether the rest of the fleet's tanks and gas meters were within compliance.

“Roads and Maritime Services Maritime Compliance Officers, with support from Marine Area Command and AMSA Marine Safety Inspectors, yesterday carried out an environmental pollution and safety compliance campaign on commercial charter vessels at Blackwattle Bay Marina,” said Australia's Roads and Maritime Services department in a statement. “These inspections were carried out under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, 1997 and included checks of sewage disposal." 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, hazmat teams measured “extremely hazardous” levels of hydrogen sulfide in the head where Hussain collapsed. Police confirmed that unsafe levels of the gas were measured on board. “Investigators were advised that several gas detection tests were conducted in a bathroom area of the vessel and were found to be in excess of safe operating levels,” NSW Police said in a statement. 

Hydrogen sulfide is a foul-smelling gas produced during the decomposition of waste, and it is the compound responsible for the odor of rotten eggs. In even modest concentrations - 700-1000 ppm, about twice the atmospheric concentration of CO2 - it is toxic and can lead to sudden collapse and death, according to OSHA. Passengers reportedly complained of an overwhelming odor aboard the Lady Rose in the hours prior to Hussain's death, and according to the Herald, the crew of the Rose had voiced objections to the smell for months. 

The owners of the Lady Rose declined to comment on the potential causes of the casualty, citing the ongoing investigation.