Image via NewStraitsTimes
In this unofficial account, the master of MV B Oceania’s sister ship describes the sequence of events leading to the terrible collision and sinking of his company’s vessel.
“The passage across to the Malacca Straits passed without incident with normal watch routines maintained. The weather was unremarkable for the time of year although there was mention of some heavy rolling in the open sea. Throughout the passage, the engineers ran two generators.
On the evening of 29 July, the 3rd Officer was on watch with an AB look-out. The ship was on a course of about 123 in auto pilot at about 12.5 knots. It was dark, but the weather was fine with good visibility, sea state 3 and winds from the south at about 20 knots. VHF
channels 16 and 88 (Pt Klang VTS) were being monitored. Both radars (X and S bands) were on and operating on the 3 and 6 mile range scales. The shipping situation was relatively quiet save for one ship about 1.5 miles astern which was heading in the same
direction with a 1 knot speed advantage (i.e. overtaking).
This ship was later identified as the Xin Tai Hai which was due to pass down B Oceania’s starboard side at about 7 cables.
At about 2230, B Oceania suddenly suffered a complete power failure/blackout (caused by the failure of both generators). Within a few seconds, the emergency generator restored limited power to essential services (including the steering gear); the bridge team switched on
the ‘Not Under Command’ lights and warned local shipping of the problem over VHF – this included a direct call to Xin Tai Hai which was now off the starboard quarter at around 1 mile – there was no reply.
Without the main engine, B Oceania lost speed and started to veer to starboard. The Master ordered full port helm but this did not reverse the turn. Meanwhile, Xin Tai Hai did not appear to make any effort to keep clear. At about 2240, her bow struck the starboard side of B Oceania by way of hold No.1.
As Xin Tai Hai then attempted to pull clear, her port quarter struck B Oceania again, this time by way of hold No.3. Xin Tai Hai then left the scene and continued on passage without any further contact being made.
Within 10-15 minutes of the collision the high water alarm sounded in hold No.1, followed shortly thereafter by another alarm in hold No.3. The Chief Officer and Bosun were sent forward to inspect for damage but quickly returned to report the ship was down by the head and larger waves were already reaching deck level. The Master decided to prepare the life rafts while the ship remained relatively stable (no list).
At about 2330, with the ship sinking lower in the water, the Master ordered the crew to leave the ship and a VHF report was made advising Port Klang and Singapore VTS. About 40 minutes after leaving the ship, B Oceania sank leaving only the funnel and mast still visible above water. The crew were picked up about 1.5 hours later by an NYK container ship, the MV Ikaruga, and brought safely to Singapore.”