Authorities knew about risks posed by ship that crashed with bridge in Rio de Janeiro

Nov, 16, 2022 Posted by Gabriel Malheiros

Week 202246

The accident with the ship that hit the bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro to the neighboring city Niteroi on the evening of Monday, November 14, called attention to the issue of abandoned vessels in Guanabara Bay.

Engineers inspected the bridge frame on Tuesday, November 15, at the spot of the ship crash. There was no damage to the structure. Only the guardrail needed repairs.

On Monday night, the bridge was closed for more than three hours. A driver recorded the moment the ship hit the bridge shortly after 6 pm. The drifting vessel was pushed by strong winds and remained next to the bridge until it was towed away.

The accident drew attention to the fact that the São Luiz had been abandoned in Guanabara Bay for a long time. Authorities had known for six years that the vessel represented an accident risk. Court authorities had even determined the ship to be removed from there, but nothing was done.

In 2016, authorities had already denounced the risks posed by such vessels. The Navy stated in an official note on Monday that the removal of the vessel was subject to legal litigation and that the ship posed no risk to navigation. However, in another Federal Court lawsuit, Rio de Janeiro port authority CDRJ reported that, in 2019, the vessel was in an advanced stage of deterioration and that the anchor chain was damaged, potentially leaving the ship adrift.

At the end of last year, the Courts determined that Mansur navigation should remove the ship to a safe location outside the port area. A letter from the Port Authority attached to the decision shows that the ship presented a risk to navigation safety, sea pollution, and facilities in Guanabara Bay, including the Rio-Niterói bridge.

Sérgio Ricardo Lima, the co-founder of the Baía Viva (“Alive Bay” in free translation) movement, says that several authorities are to blame for abandoning the ship.

“By law, responsibility [abandoned vessels] lies with at least three bodies: the Port Authority of the Brazilian Navy, the federal environmental body Ibama, and the State Institute for the Environment. In my opinion, this is a case of widespread omission,” he says.

The freighter is not the only ship abandoned in Guanabara Bay.

A postcard from Rio de Janeiro full of abandoned boats. In a stretch of Guanabara Bay, entire ships are left adrift.

The windows of what was once a ship are occluded. They’re rusted through and through. Some ships are sinking in the naval cemetery. Other vessels are down to their skeletons. One of these abandoned boats in the bay was responsible for the Monday accident.

The ship São Luiz was left in Guanabara Bay in 2016. After it drifted, it crashed into the Rio-Niterói bridge between pillars 71 and 73. From the sea, it was possible to see that the hit guardrail was left with red marks, one of the colors of the vessel.

On November 15, the ship was taken to the pier at the Port of Rio. The oxidation state is advanced. In the ship’s stern, it is possible to see the point that crashed with the bridge structure. The size of the São Luiz is impressive. It is 200 meters long with the capacity to transport 42,000 tonnes of grain.

Authorities are at odds over who should move the abandoned boats. Rio’s Municipal Environmental Secretariat said it is pressing those responsible for the abandonment of vessels in Guanabara Bay to keep similar accidents from happening.

The State Institute of the Environment argued that the control of vessels anchored in Guanabara Bay falls under the responsibility of the Navy.

Abandoned vessels pose a risk of accidents and increased pollution.

“We need to have an emergency decommissioning plan for these vessels. They are extremely precarious, unsafe vessels. Perhaps there’s fuel oil inside them. This could cause disaster in Guanabara Bay,” says Sérgio Ricardo Lima.

Source: Jornal Nacional

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