17/06/2008“SEA STAR-CANCÚN-08” Case: Press Conference Summary

GENERAL COORDINATION OF PORTS AND MECHANT MARINE
GENERAL DIRECTION OF THE MERCHANT MARINE

Yesterday, Thursday June 12th at 17:30 hours a press conference was held in the conference room at the Regional Port Authorities Office of Puerto Juárez – Cancun.

Key members of the press, radio and television media outlets with state coverage as well as channel 33 of cable television attended this press conference. The meeting was programmed to be held today, but had to be brought forward because of some participants’ agenda. Therefore, Televisa and TV Azteca could not be informed of the change. Among the attendees were Captain Miguel Angel Rebolledo Guiot, Benjamín Hernández, Engineer in Naval Construction; Dr Jaime González Cano, Mr. Roberto Díaz Abraham, Captain Vicente Arturo Martínez Morales; the Sub Director of Navigation, the Technical Naval Inspector of Progreso, the Director of the Parque Nacional Costa Occidental of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún and Punta Nizuc, the President of Cancun A.C. Nauticals Associates A. C. and the Harbourmaster of Cancun Port/Puerto Juárez, respectively.

After the welcoming and presentation of participants, a photographic series and a video of the damages caused to the reef “Chitales Grande” (approximately 40 square meters) and the damages to the ship were shown. The explanation of the images was given by Dr González and Captain Rebolledo.

The preliminary results of the inspection made to the ship and to the damaged zone were exhibited. The initial conclusion of such results establishes that the B/M “SEA STAR” was located in a shallow area that isn’t deep enough as there are certain solid high points (rocks) 2 meters deep. Therefore, it is assumed that the stern repeatedly hit against such points causing damage to the hull (a breach of approximately 30 square centimetres in the right part of the rear die) propellers and rudders; causing a significant flood in the engine room and watertight compartments from the medium to the back (stern).

Naval Engineer, Benjamín Hernández, explained that the ship is designed to transport 250 people. Hence, this had nothing to do with overweight given that should we concentrate the weight equivalent to the number of people on board – last figure: 224= 16,800 kilos approximately - in a single point in the stern, this would not cause a substantial increase in the sunken part of the ship and would not be the cause of the flood through the engine room ventilation grilles.

Captain Rebolledo explained that based on his experience, you can tell that the ship’s captain, Mr. Agustin Cituk did not take into consideration that the route taken to transport the tourists to do snorkelling presented an unsafe scene as the ship’s hull, rudders and propellers were too close to the coral reef mass. All This combined with the deep sea swell’s characteristics eventually originates waves known as “fool” waves, which cause significant crests and valleys producing depth changes in the area. Also, the navigation letter number SM922.2 has a marked area of 1.4 meters deep adjacent to the place where the damages to the coral reef system are found.

Naval Engineer, Benajmín Hernández, concluded that it is likely that the cause of the partial sinking of the ship was a combination of different factors, but to the best of his knowledge, the sinking was caused by the hitting and stranding with the reef and rocky bottom of the “SEA STAR” vessel as it was located in a place that was not favourable for the design of such vessel. He also mentioned that Captain Rebolledo will have the report in approximately ten days, once all the information is duly processed and current available theories are confirmed.

Finally, Mr. Roberto Díaz, in representation of the group of nautical companies, took the stand and mentioned that although there is certain risk inherent in this type of aquatic activities, such activities are safe in the port t of Cancun. This has been an isolated case, and if there was evidence of mistakes or misconduct from the crew or the company, these will be held accountable for such incident. In the meantime, they will continue working in coordination with the authorities to favour safety in nautical services.

Captain Vicente A. Martínez Morales