Special forces deployed as seafarer runs amok, threatening to kill crew and torch ship

Special forces deployed as seafarer runs amok, threatening to kill crew and torch ship

Portuguese maritime police stormed a Liberian flagged general cargo ship yesterday after a sailor of Turkish origin ran amok, brandishing knives and an axe and threatening to set fire to the vessel.

The 4,757 dwt Celine (built 2011) was passing through international waters off Sesimbra in Portugal when local authorities received messages from the ship’s bridge of the carnage ensuing. The ship, owned by Turkey’s Vento Deniz Isletmeleri, was headed to the North African port of Ceuta carrying wood pulp.

At about 11 am on Wednesday, the Naval Command received a warning notice about a mutiny aboard, involving one rampaging crewmember, according to a joint statement of the Navy and the National Maritime Authority.

The master of the all Turkish crew had been attacked, his fingers fractured, but other crewmembers had managed to close the bridge and send an alert. The irate crewmember, who is believed to have had fallen out with his fellow crewmembers at the start of the voyage, then threatened to set light to the cargo of wood pulp having previously said he would kill all those onboard.

Special forces were deployed from four Portuguese ports to intercept the ship. The attacker was soon detected on deck and before the assault, surrendered.

The shipowner has decided not to press charges and the seafarer is now being repatriated to Turkey.

Incidents of violence at sea are sadly commonplace, though rarely reported.

Speaking with Splash this April Johan Smith from the charity Sailors’ Society warned of severe mental health issues affecting many serving onboard today. Smith, who is behind the charity’s new Wellness at Sea programme, pointed to recent research from Swansea University in the UK which showed that seafaring is the career with the second highest suicide rate in the world after coal mining.

“This must be a wake-up call,” said Smith.

Incidents of mental breakdowns at sea are commonplace, Smith said, pointing to the murder in April of two Chinese crew by a fellow seafarer on a ship to the south of the Philippines.

“You hear many stories about violence,” Smith said, adding ominously, “For companies to address mental health is very important, especially in the wake of the Germanwings accident.” In March a co-pilot caused the death of 150 people by steering his plane into the side of a mountain. The pilot was later found to have been suffering from mental issues.

Sailor’s Society, one of the largest seafarer support charities operating internationally, has launched this year its Wellness at Sea coaching and support programme.

Wellness at Sea has been designed to promote health and well-being among the world’s seafarers by promoting cultural awareness, emotional intelligence, social skills and spiritual well-being alongside more familiar skills competence.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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