Dead In The Water Book

Dead In The Water – The Best Maritime Book Of The Year

John Konrad
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December 31, 2022

The following is a review of the book Dead In The Water, a book about the Brillante Virtuoso, a tragedy that shook the shipping world and left us all in disbelief.

by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) On July 6th, 2011 the Liberian-flagged tanker Brillante Virtuoso, owned by Greek shipping magnate Marios Iliopoulos and carrying $100 million worth of fuel oil was attacked by pirates near Yemen. The crew of 26 Filipino sailors was forced to abandon ship, but thankfully, the US Navy cruiser USS Philippine Sea responded and rescued them all. Tugboats from the nearby port of Aden were able to put out the fire and tow the ship to safety. Miraculously, no one was hurt until weeks later when a bomb exploded under the car of former British Merchant Navy Captain David Mockett.

Captain Mockett worked as a ship surveyor and consultant for Noble Denton and Lloyds. Rumors spread that he was on a mission to uncover the truth behind the true cause of the fire. It became clear that Mockett had been murdered, but by whom? Pirates? The Ship’s owner? Some thought his passing may have been a consequence of the Arab Spring, which caused immense disruption to Yemen and hindered the ability of British and US Navy NCIS agents to conduct a thorough investigation of both the ship and Mockett’s murder.

Then there was the salvage of the ship itself. Preventing the spill of nearly $100 million worth of crude oil of initially took precedence over determining the cause and the salvage team was not fully cooperating with investigators. Was Mockett’s death even related to the incident? Or was it a random act of violence against an expat? Some even suggested he had ties with the CIA.

Sailors assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) approach a life boat to rescue crew members from the Liberian-flagged motor vessel MT Brilliante Virtuoso, July 6, 2011. U.S. Navy Photo

Related: Watch: Inside the Hijacking of a $100 Million Oil Tanker

Then Nick Sloan, a renowned South African salvage master, was employed to help secure the ship and extract the oil. Sloan reported discrepancies, as the forensic evidence did not match the testimonies of the boat’s key witnesses, and the captain had neglected to implement standard anti-piracy protocols. Additionally, potential evidence of a bomb was discovered in the engine room. To investigate the matter, Richard Veale, a former Scotland Yard detective and son of a longshoreman with a specialty in complex cases, was hired and recruited Michael Conner, a former police officer known as “Metal Mickey”.

Related: Captain Nick Sloane, The Salvage Master Who Raised The Costa Concordia, An Interview

It would take all of Veale’s intelligence and Metal Mickey’s courage to uncover the truth, and their story – brilliantly narrated by Bloomberg reporters Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel in the new book Dead In The Water, A True Story of Hijacking, Murder, and a Global Maritime Conspiracy – takes readers on a journey from the mayhem of Piracy in the Gulf Of Aden, through the alleys of Yemen, around the esteemed offices of London’s maritime elite, in and out of the coffee shops of Piraeus, and to the doorsteps of the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

gCaptain has selected it as the best maritime book of 2022. It’s sure to ignite your emotions and take you on an unforgettable journey from the high seas to the depths of criminal avarice.

Marios Iliopoulos
Greek Shipowner Marios Iliopoulos driving a rally car. Photo via Bloomberg.

Just don’t expect a happy ending. Following a High Court judge’s ruling in London that Marios Iliopoulos had orchestrated a piracy act off Yemen, resulting in the fire of the Brillante Virtuoso, Iliopoulos was present to receive the “ship of the year” award at the Lloyd’s List Greek Shipping Awards 2019 ceremony. According to the book, his company, SeaJets, managed to secure insurance coverage from the American Club, despite Iliopoulos’ reputation for insurance fraud, his willingness to put the lives of US Navy sailors at risk during the rescue by the USS Philippine Sea, and putting profit over the safety of seafarers and the environment. Thanks to marine insurers willing to overlook past crimes, Iliopoulos has been able to get back to business doing what he does best, investing in old, dilapidated ships and turning a profit.

Equasis listing of Marios Iliopoulos owned SeaJets ferry Tera Jet showing an active American Club insurance policy.

The book Dead In The Water, A True Story of Hijacking, Murder, and a Global Maritime Conspiracy is available today via Amazon.

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