Audio recordings from ‘Death Ship’ were deleted, court told

Audio recordings are likely to have have deleted deliberately from the voyage data recorder (VDR) onboard a ship on which three crew members died or disappeared within a six-week period, a coronial inquest in Australia has heard.

The shipmanagement company’s executive director failed to tell Japanese authorities there could be a link between the fatalities onboard the so-called ‘Death Ship’, according to ARM reports from the inquest in Sydney, which has been ongoing since 2014.

Two Filipino seamen, chief cook Cesar Llanto and chief engineer Hector Collado, died on the Sage Sagittarius in August and September 2012 while the Panama-flagged bulk carrier was en route to Australia.

Then a Japanese superintendent, Kosaku Monji, was crushed to death on a conveyor belt when the ship was docked in southern Japan on October 6, 2012.

Naval electronics expert Mark Sanders, a specialist in voyage data recorders, testified he believed audio recordings from the days Collado and Llanto died had been deleted deliberately.

AFP had requested 10 audio files to be downloaded for evidence but had only been given nine, and the date stamps appeared to have been tampered with manually, Sanders told the inquest.

Neither the Japanese Coast Guard nor the Japanese Transport Safety Board investigating Monji’s death were told of the other two men’s deaths, the inquest heard.

Shigeto Yoshimura from Hachiuma Steamship, part of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), told the inquest he had not informed the Japanese authorities of the previous deaths onboard the vessel “probably because I did not want to delay the operation of the ship”.

“I don’t think there is any sort of relationship amongst these three deaths,” Yoshimura said, quoted by ARM.

The ship’s master, Venancio Salas, no longer works for the company. Salas has been accused of gun running, punching crew, and trying to cover up incriminating evidence at the inquest. Splash understands however that the Filipino national is still working on ships at present.


Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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