Friday, May 20, 2011

Russian Dock Workers Demand End to Nerpa Court-Martial Case

A group of dock workers have demanded that a case against the captain and the chief engineer of a Russian submarine be dropped, dismissing the charges of professional negligence, and have also called for a formal investigation into the incident.

In 2008, 20 crew members on the Nerpa were killed by an unplanned release of a fire suppressant, an action which also injured 21. The sub was undergoing sea trials in the Sea of Japan, and carried 208 people, mostly civilians, more than three times its normal compliment. Those on board say that the fire suppressant—FGeon gas mixed with poisonous trichloroethylene—was released without warning, but that it was due to the actions of Captain Dmitry Lavrentyev and the engineer Dmitry Grobov that no one else was killed.

The dock workers believe that shoddy workmanship on parts in the sub is to blame, not the actions of the captain and the engineer, a view supported by others in the Russian military. A former doctor with the Pacific Fleet has also stated that if pure Freon gas was used, as opposed to the mixture, more people would have survived. Michael Armstrong, a former British Royal Navy submariner, has held that casualties would also have decreased if the civilian crew members were trained in emergency procedures, like the usage of emergency breathing devices.

No responsive actions have been taken by the Russian Defense Ministry so far in relation to the request.

(Credit: Richard Weiland)