The M/T Haven
formerly Amoco Milford Haven
|Builder:||Astilleros Espanoles S.A
|Out of service:||11 April 1991|
|Fate:||Sank on April 11, 1991, off the coast of Genoa, Italy.|
|Tonnage:||233,690 long tons deadweight (DWT)|
|Length:||334.02 metres (1,096 ft)|
|Beam:||51.06 metres (167.5 ft)|
|Draught:||19.80 metres (65.0 ft)|
|Propulsion:||Diesel, single screw|
|Speed:||15 knots (28 km/h)|
The M/T Haven (formerly Amoco Milford Haven), was a VLCC (Very Large Crude Carrier), leased to Troodos Shipping (a company ran by Lucas Haji-Ioannou and his son Stelios Haji-Ioannou). In 1991, while loaded with 144,000 tonnes (1 million barrels) of crude oil, the ship exploded, caught fire and sank off the coast of Genoa, Italy, killing six Cypriot crew and flooding the Mediterranean with up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil. It broke in two and sank after burning for three days, and for the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France.
The Amoco Milford Haven was built by Astilleros Espanoles S.A in Cadiz, Spain, the twin sister ship to the Amoco Cadiz, which itself sank in 1978. Launched in 1973, she worked various routes shipping crude oil from the middle east gulf. In 1987 she was hit by a missile in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War. Extensively refitted in Singapore, she was sold to ship brokers who leased her to Troodos Shipping, for whom she ran from Iran's Kharg Island to the Mediterranean.
On 11 April 1991, the Haven was unloading a cargo of 230,000 tonnes of crude oil to the Multedo floating platform, seven miles off of the coast of Genoa, Italy. Having transferred 80,000 tonnes, she disconnected from the platform for a routine internal transfer operation, to allow oil to be pumped from two side-holds into a central one.
In later testimony, First Officer Donatos Lilis said: "I heard a very loud noise, like iron bars beating against each other. Perhaps the cover of a pump had broken. Then there was an awful explosion." Five crewmen died immediately, as fire broke out and oil started leaking from the hull as the plates overheated. As the fire engulfed the ship, flames rose 100m high, and after a series of further explosions occurred between 30-40,000 tons of oil poured into the sea.
The Italian authorities acted quickly, with hundreds of men fighting a fire which was difficult to access, and distributing more than six miles of inflatable barriers, submerged a metre below the surface, around the vessel to control the spillage. On day two, the Haven was to be towed close to the coast, in a bid to reduce the coastal area affected and make intervention easier. As the bow slipped beneath the surface, a steel cable was passed around the rudder and tugs applied towing pressure. But it was quickly clear that the ship had broken its keel, and the bow section came to rest in 450m of water. On 14 April, the 250m-long main body sank a mile and a half from the coast, between Arenzano and Varazze.
After the wreck was declared safe, a mini sub diver found that the stern section had grazed a rocky spur, though fortunately not hard enough to open any new holes in the hull, and come to rest at an angle on the flat, sandy seabed. He reported that most of the remaining 80,000 tons of crude had burnt or was at the surface. Most of the oil on the surface was able to be sucked up, and what remained below was in a solid state. For the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France.
At the centre of the case was the allegation that Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his father Lucas Haji-Ioannou had kept their vessel, the Troodos-owned Cyprus-flagged Haven, in such disrepair that it blew up. According to news items it is also alleged that the tanker was scrapped after being hit by an Exocet missile during the Iran–Iraq War and should not have been put back into operation. Prosecutors had asked for seven-year sentences for manslaughter against both father and son. Christos Dovles, former director of the shipping firm for whom prosecutors had sought a sentence of two years and four months.
Lucas Haji-Ioannou, and his son Stelios Haji-Ioannou, faced charges of the manslaughter of the six killed, extortion and intimidating and attempting to bribe witnesses. Both denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.
Despite the heavy charges levied against them, Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his father were later acquitted after three retrials (of which 2002 was the last) and much controversy, with subsequent appeals and demands for compensation were also thrown out. Stelios Hadjioannou was quoted after the trial: "My main comment is to ask why it took so long to clear innocent people of these terrible charges."
Italy's Environment Ministry under-secretary at the time said he was "greatly embittered" by the verdict saying "The victims, the relatives and the marine environment that were all seriously damaged are left without convincing answers.
The Italian president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Grazia Francescato said in a statement that he was disgusted with Mr Haji-Ioannou's conduct and drew similarities with the then recent Moby Prince disaster and the acquittal of four men on charges of manslaughter in the ferry disaster off the Tuscan city of Livorno that killed 140 people in the same day of Haven's accident.
NUMAST, the union which represents merchant officers, described the acquittal as "depressing", a sentiment also expressed by the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF). Only by making ship owners accountable for the state of vessels under their control would substandard ships be eliminated, Andrew Linington, head of communications at NUMAST said. "Even when ship owners were clearly linked with a ship that did not meet acceptable standards it seems no action will be taken," Linington said.
The Haven now lies at a depth of 33 to 83m off the coast of Genoa. It is claimed to be the largest shipwreck in the world and as with many old wrecks it is a popular tourist attraction with deep sea divers.