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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 13:32 GMT
Collision ship's safety failures
The General Grot-Rowecki. Picture: Reuters
The 23,000-tonne General Grot-Rowecki was built in 1985
A ship involved in a collision in the English Channel had failed a number of safety checks around the world, the BBC has learned.

Serious deficiencies were found on board the 23,000-tonne bulk carrier the General Grot-Rowecki during inspections in Canada, Norway and Belgium.

The Maltese-registered carrier was in a collision with the chemical tanker Ece about 30 miles (48km) off Guernsey.

Maritime union NUMAST wants improved safety standards around the UK coast.

We believe these incidents should serve as a wake-up call to the authorities
Brian Orrell, NUMAST

The General Grot-Rowecki, built in 1985, was detained for two days after an inspection in the port of Quebec in 2003.

BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Symonds said: "Problems were found with fire doors, its engines, safety equipment and paperwork. Oil pollution prevention equipment was also found to be inoperative.

"Other checks in 1998 and 1999 also resulted in the ship being held in ports.

"Six deficiencies were found when the ship was inspected in the port of Belfast in 2004, but the vessel was allowed to leave."

Polish Steamship Company Polska Zegluga Morska, owner of the General Grot-Rowecki, said the vessel had not been damaged, and was continuing on to its destination, the port of Police in Poland.

Map showing tanker collision

A spokesman said the details of the accident were not known and refused to comment on the ship's safety record.

It is common for so-called Port State Control inspections to discover some deficiencies, but British maritime union NUMAST said the detention of a ship indicated serious problems with its sea-worthiness.

The other ship involved in the collision - the 8,131-tonne Ece, which is now in danger of sinking - has also been inspected, but has a better safety record.

Twelve people were rescued from the vessel by a coastguard helicopter based at Lee-on-Solent and another 10 by the St Peter Port lifeboat from Guernsey.

The Ece's operator has not commented on the collision or the vessel's record.

Meanwhile, NUMAST has called for urgent action to address what it says are declining safety standards around the UK coast.

'Wake-up call'

The union, which represents around 19,000 ship masters, officers and staff in the shipping industry, warned of "alarming signs of a decline in safety standards around the UK coast".

General Secretary Brian Orrell said the collision sent a "clear message" that "next time we may not be so lucky".

He said it was just a matter of time before there was a "major maritime disaster on our doorstep".

Mr Orrell said: "We believe these incidents should serve as a wake-up call to the authorities and we are not alone in feeling disturbed at trends within the industry at present."

More than 140,000 ships pass through the Channel each year. In 2001, there were more than 360 contraventions of collision prevention regulations in the Dover Strait.

See night vision pictures of the crew's rescue

Crews rescued after ships collide
31 Jan 06 |  Guernsey

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