For a lot of people, shipwrecks are things that don’t happen anymore. With GPS guidance, widely available radar systems, and (largely) accurate weather forecasts, shipwrecks seem like something from a bygone era when seafaring was much more hazardous.
It is simply not the case.
Shipwrecks are a near-constant fact for seafarers and they are just as common as they have ever been, but they don’t always receive the media attention that they formerly did. Even with the aid of advanced technology, shipwrecks can occur at any time in any body of water.
Laid down in 1980 in Kobe, Japan, at the Hanshin Diesel Works, the Queen Hind started her life out as the Asaka Maru No. 1 which had an unremarkable service history of bulk vehicle transport before being sold several times while remaining in Asian waters as a cargo ship.
After 17 years of transporting cargo in her home waters, she was transferred to European waters and re-flagged as the Maltee ship Sea Coquette. For 18 years she served in European waters without incident, becoming a regular sight passing through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles between the Mediterranean and Black seas.
Her final owners, a Romanian concern, re-flagged the vessel again, and with her Palauan registration, she was converted to be a livestock ferry.
Romania has never had an easy history. Placed at a crossroads between the Middle East and Europe, she has seen invaders from all quarters. Part of this uneasy history is a legacy of corruption and economic struggle that was left behind by several decades of totalitarian communist rule.
One thing that highlights the problems the country has is the terrible conditions that are forced onto the country’s livestock. Without processing facilities in the country, Romanian farmers are often forced to export their animals.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Without warning, and with an as of now unknown cause, the Queen Hind capsized suddenly in shallow waters shortly after leaving her most recent port of call laden with a full cargo of thousands of sheep.
In moments, rescue was upon the vessel and all 20 crew members, Syrian nationals, were rescued. The fate of the live cargo below the decks of the ship was less certain, of the 14,000 live sheep that were reported to be on the ship, less than 200 survived their atrocious ordeal.
Maritime salvage is big business, and for many ships, a shipwreck is not a life-ending event, more akin to a serious injury that needs to be repaired. With the possibility of many service years ahead of her, the owners of the ship contracted a maritime salvor to help with the situation that was cast upon the Queen Hind.
There are often may factors that make maritime salvage a difficult process: inclement weather, remote location, or competing salvors can all make the salvage process dangerous or impossible. In the case of the Queen Hind, the factor that plagued her salvage is corruption.
Outfitted with the information provided by the owner, a location close to the coast, and calm seas, the salvors contracted to salvage the Queen Hind should have had an easy time – but when they attempted to recover the ship, they were plagued with difficulties and equipment malfunction.
Like some kind of treasure galleon, the Queen Hind was fit with several “secret” decks so that the ship could haul more animals, more in fact, than the 14,000 that were declared to be aboard. Divers found the secret decks along with several thousand additional dead animals.
As of the publication of this article, the exact fate of the Queen Hind remains unknown, nor if there will be any consequences for those that conspired to alter the formation and possible safety of the ship.
While it is a terrible tragedy, a gleam of hope that the senseless deaths of an unknown amount of sheep will somehow spur governments to act responsibly and enforce maritime standards that have long been accepted.