4 missing crew declared dead
It is well known in the legal world that winning a Court case on a technicality does not absolve a person or an entity from guilt or responsibility.
But that didn’t prevent the CEO of the Island Development Corporation (IDC) Glenny Savy this week from claiming victory as if his favorite football team had just won the Premiership. And he even used the occasion to launch a vicious attackon the credibility of the Maritime Accident Investigation Board (MAIB). To that end Savy called a press conference last week on Thursday, after the court ruling where he claimed he was denied natural justice because the MAIB didn’t give him the opportunity to respond to their findings before going public with the report. This is not entirely correct because during the course of the investigation Savy WAS contacted by the MAIB. They wanted him to tell them what he knew about the incident but the CEO of IDC had declined the offer. He said that he was not there during the accident and therefore couldn’t say anything. This in itself was an indication that Savy would not cooperate with the MAIB and that he was against the investigation. Savy is always one to plant his flag firmly on what he considers to be HIS territory, was against any investigation in the matter and the police failed the entire country by not conducting its own inquiry in the accident.
Two years after their disappearance following an accident involving the Sea Horse vessel at Coetivy Island; Nigel Fanchette, Darren Morel, Norcy Serret and Ranjit Premathilaka were declared dead by the Chief Justice in a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday 22nd July (2020) in the morning to a subdued court gathering. The declaration came after a public inquiry in the incident by Magistrate Natasha Burian. The families of the victims were in attendance. The “Sea Horse” caught fire and sank near the Coetivy Island after it had broken Iloose from its anchor during a fire onboard the vessel. According to IDC, it then drifted into deep waters where it sank. The Chief Justice pronounced her declaration that she was satisfied with the inquiry that the four crew members in question had died on the same day that the Sea Horse sank somewhere in deep waters around Coetivy Island. The families of the deceased are now looking forward for this matter to come to an end so that they can get closure of this painful episode.
JUDICIAL REVIEW ON REPORT
In another matter before the Supreme Court on Monday 20th July; IDC sought a Judicial Review on the report by the MAIB with regards to the accident of the Sea Horse. IDC had filed a petition to ask for a review of the findings and decisions made by the MAIB. Justice Melchior Vidot ruled in favour of the petitioner that the MAIB had conducted the investigation under the wrong section of the Merchant Shipping Act; section 170 of the Act whereas it should have conducted under section 227.
Therein lies the technicality on which the report was thrown out and caused Savy to rejoice.
However, the MAIB was severely handicapped to conduct any investigation under section 227 because there are no regulations in place from the Minister. Section 170 of the Act provides the MAIB with authority to hold an inquiry into circumstances surrounding the death or serious injury where a person dies or suffers serious injury in a ship or a seaman belonging to a ship dies or suffers a serious injury away from the ship; at the next port in Seychelles at which the ship calls. In that case the ship never arrived at any port in Seychelles because it sunk. So an inquiry under this section (170) cannot be conducted in regards to the Sea Horse. Section 227 (1A) of the Act, state that MAIB can investigate all types of marine casualties, accidents, incidents, incidents onboard a Seychelles flag ship worldwide and any other matters provided in the Act “as the Minister may order in writing”.
NO OPTION FOR JUDGE
However, there are no regulations in place under which to conduct the investigation under section 227. And this is why the Judge had to strike down the report. Therefore, for any investigation to be conducted in this tragic case the Minister for Transportation must now put in place the regulations and a fresh report can be prepared by the MAIB under section 227 of The Act. Under the circumstances, although the findings of the MAIB were never in question before the court, Judge Vidot had no choice but torule in favour of the petitioner.