15 March 2004 22:09 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (CNI)--Four of the six surviving crew members from the Singapore-registered Bow Mariner, which sank off the US East Coast in February, have exercised their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and have not provided the US Coast Guard with any information, a Coast Guard spokesman told CNI Monday.
Under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, no one is compelled to answer questions posed by the government if they fear the answers might incriminate them. Although the incident occurred in international waters aboard a Singapore-registered vessel, The Singapore government has asked the US Coast Guard to handle the investigation.
Two crew members - a cook and a mess mate - did answer questions on Friday and again Monday, according to chief investigator Jerry Crooks of the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Office in Norfolk, Virginia.
He added: "Neither of the men had hired criminal attorneys."
But the four crew members who refused to talk citing their Fifth Amendments rights have hired criminal attorneys, he added.
Said Craft: "We will continue to try and resolve this situation. We're hopeful that they will talk to us and we will continue to work toward that end. The Philippine Embassy has not issued travel documents to any of the six and that will remain the case at least for the foreseeable future."
Craft said the Coast Guard has received "terrific support" from the Philippine Embassy and the Government of Singapore.
The ship's owwner, Odfjell, has complied with subpoenas and handed over documents, he said, "although there are still some documents pending."
Craft said a formal hearing on the incident is not scheduled since the ship sank in international waters and was registered in Singapore.
Had the accident occurred in US waters or involved a US ship, Craft said, "it's likely there would have been a formal public hearing. But we're acting on behalf of the Singapore government and they have indicated to us they did not feel a public hearing was necessary."
The Bow Mariner accident ranks as one of the worst ever deep-sea chemical tanker disasters in terms of loss of life.
Only six of the 27 crew were recovered alive from the vessel after it exploded and sank some 50 miles off Virginia.
The Bow Mariner was travelling from Linden in the port of New York and New Jersey to Texas City near Houston with a cargo of industrial ethanol.
It was the worst accident in the long history of the Bow Mariner's owner, Norwegian chemical transportation and storage group Odfjell.
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