SINGAPORE - The first chief officer of a 108m-long dredger which was involved in a fatal collision in the waters off the southern island of Pulau Sebarok last year was neither qualified nor certified to be in control of a ship that size, a district court heard on Wednesday (July 11).
Nevertheless, Chinese national Ding Zongde, who was working on board the Dominica-registered JBB De Rong 19, continued to navigate the vessel and ignored the directions given by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
It ended up in the path of the Indonesia-registered Kartika Segara, an 180m-long tanker, which ploughed into the right side of the dredger, causing it to sink. Five crew members of JBB De Rong 19 were killed.
Ding, 53, was jailed for two years on Wednesday after pleading guilty to causing the deaths by performing a rash act on Sept 13 last year.
With 12 crew on board, the JBB De Rong 19 was passing through Singapore waters to deliver sand for reclamation works in Johor.
Kartika Segara, which had 26 crew members, was on its way to the port of Baubau, in south-east Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Assistant Public Prosecutor Dillon Kok said Ding was one of two chief officers on board JBB De Rong 19.
Ding took over from the other chief officer at around 11pm on Sept 12 last year while Malaysian Mohd Zuhair Roslan, 26, manned the radio as the Chinese national could not speak English.
APP Kok said: "The accused and Mohd Zuhair had difficulties communicating verbally... As such, the pair communicated by using simple hand gestures."
Ding later spotted Kartika Segara on his ship's right side a distance away. After receiving instructions from Singapore's Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) operated by MPA, Mr Zuhair signalled to Ding that he should give way to the tanker.
The court heard the Chinese national ignored the instructions as he felt that JBB De Rong 19 could make it ahead of Kartika Segara.
At 12.35am on Sept 13 last year, VTIS Central asked JBB De Rong 19 to take immediate action to avoid a collision.
APP Kok told the court: "JBB De Rong 19 was ordered to slow down and give way. Mohd Zuhair acknowledged the direction and signalled to the accused to slow JBB down. The accused then cut the vessel's engines. Only when the accused realised that a collision was imminent did he put the vessel's engine in full reverse. A few seconds later, Kartika Segara collided into the starboard quarter (right side) of JBB."
The dredger lost power and was plunged into darkness. It sank less than a minute after the collision . The bodies of four Chinese nationals and Mr Zuhair were discovered between Sept 13 and Nov 5 last year.