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Ibn Batouta

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IBN Battuta at The Red Sea Wreck ProjectThe Ibn Batouta (sometimes spelled “Ibn Battuta”) was a 4,932 GRT general cargo ship built at Orenstein Koppel AG, Lubeck, Germany (Yard No. 692) for the Societe Nationale de Transport Maritime & Compagnie Nationale Algerienne de Navigation Maritime (S.N.T.M./C.N.A.N.), Alger, Algeria. The ship’s keel was launched in December 1972 and completed in March 1973 with a length of 116.69 meters, beam of 17.25 meters, and draught of 7.50 meters (total depth including running gear was 9.89 meters). The ship was built with a reinforced hull in order to carry heavy cargoes and navigating through light ice conditions. Propulsion was provided by a single MaK 8M551AK diesel engine provided by Atlas-Mak Maschinenbau, Kiel, Germany which generated 4,000 bhp to a single shaft and propeller for a speed of 15.5 knots.

Major cargo handling equipment consisted of a heavy lift derrick located just forward of the #3 hold, ten 5-10 ton cranes (5 port and 5 starboard) for general cargo handling in each of the ship’s three holds, and a single general purpose derrick located just forward of the superstructure which was located aft.

The Ibn Batouta, named for the famed Morrocan Muslim traveler Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battuta (1304 to 1368 or 1377, year of death uncertain), operated under the Algerian flag for the S.N.T.M./C.N.A.N and sailed between the ports of Algiers, Antwerp, Bejaia, Bilbao, Gdansk, Hamburg, and Oran, among others, throughout her career.
Major events occurring during the ship’s career:

  • At 1107 on the morning of 12 June 1978, while sailing approximately 14 miles southeast of Gibraltar in low visibility conditions, the 12,410 ton American flagged bulk cargo ship S.S. Yellowstone collided with the Ibn Batouta. As a result of the collision, the Yellowstone sank by the stern approximately 40-minutes later with the loss of 5 lives and a cargo of grain which had been destined for Tunisia. The investigation into the collision found that both ships knew well in advance that they were in a head-on situation, or possible close passage, but neither ship reduced its speed below 15 knots. When the ships were within 2 miles of each other, theYellowstone had attempted to contact the Ibn Batouta via VHF radio but received no response. Additionally, watch officers on both ships had failed to make a relative motion radar plot in order to determine the other ship’s course, speed, and CPA (Closest Point of Approach).

    C.N.A.N. agreed to pay damages in the amount of $1,316,500 to the owners of the Yellowstone, Rio Grande Transport, Inc. (Note: The “Yellowstone” was the only ship owned and operated by Rio Grande, while C.N.A.N’s fleet consisted of over 70 vessels). In addition, both parties involved agreed to pay the Tunisian government $900,000 each in compensation for the lost cargo. However, it wasn’t until after 1985 that C.N.A.N. made final payment to either Rio Grande Transport or the Tunisian government.

  • On 05 March 1998, the Ibn Batouta is detained at Antwerp, Belgium when a stowaway of Algerian nationality is found hiding onboard.
  • The ship is detained twice during the latter half of 2000 for Port Control violations. First on 30 July 2000 at Hamburg, Germany for 15 days, and then again on 13 October 2000 at Gdansk, Poland for 16 days.
  • Detained at Antwerp, Belgium on 05 September 2002 for 4 days due to “Paris MOU” violations ranging from missing safety equipment, mechanical maintenance issues, sanitation equipment problems, missing nautical charts,and inoperative/missing lights, among other violations.
  • In 2005 the Ibn Batouta was sold to the Al Rashid Shipping Group, UAE and reflagged under St. Kitts & Nevis registry.
  • On 26 September 2005, while carrying a cargo of cement through the waters off Mogadishu, Somalia, the Ibn Batouta was hijacked by pirates which were also holding the MS Semlow, which was carrying a cargo of U.N. rice destined for Somalia. The pirates moved both ships to Harardhere, approximately 400 KM north of Mogadishu (One source indicates that the Ibn Batouta towed the other ship after it had ran out of fuel). Both ships would eventually be released on 03 October 2005. The Semlow, after being held captive for 100 days, and the Ibn Batouta after only 7 days. None of the ship’s crews were injured during their time in captivity and it is not known if any ransom was paid by the ship’s owners.
  • On 07 December 2008, the ship delivered 7,000 tons of sorghum to the port of Mogadishu, Somalia in support of the World Food Program. The Ibn Batouta had been escorted from Mombasa, Kenya by vessels of the Dutch Navy due to the threat of piracy in the waters off Somalia.

IBN Battuta at The Red Sea Wreck Project

The Loss of the Ibn Batouta:
In the early morning hours of 09 March 2009 the ship, with a crew of 26 men, had passed through the Suez Canal, cleared the Straits of Gubal, and was enroute to the UAE with a cargo of approximately 5600-5900 tons of sand used in the manufacture of glass products. The sea state was reported to have been rough seas, but clear. As the ship passed Hurghada and was nearing Safaga, the ship sent out a distress signal prior to capsizing and sinking approximately 35 miles from Safaga at position 26.59N / 34.30E. News reports later stated that ships in the area, a passing commercial ship identified as the Susan K, and the OXL Sultan responded to the distress call. The Egyptian Search and Rescue Team also joined the rescue efforts and subsequent search for survivors.

The OXL Sultan initially rescued some of the crew, and an Egyptian helicopter is said to have rescued additional crew members as well. Two bodies were later recovered by the Susan K. In all, 12 lives were lost during the sinking of the ship.

Initial reports stated that the Ibn Batouta had capsized in bad weather. However, it was later determined that the 8,734 DWT OXL Sultan had collided with the ship, causing her to sink. The OXL Sultan was later arrested at Suez while undergoing repairs to her hull. One source indicates that the ship’s owners were fined $10 million USD for damages, plus an additional $10 million USD to be paid to the families of those sailors who lost their lives (validation required).



Miramar Single Ship Report for “7302902”,9171,1126762,00.html

International Law Reports (By E. Lauterpacht)


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Lee has been in the marketing industry for the last 15 years and now specializes in teaching marketing techniques to people in the scuba diving industry. He is founder of Dive Media Solutions which, in addition to providing complete marketing, media, communications and IT solutions exclusively for the scuba diving industry, also produces The Scuba News. You can connect with Lee via Twitter by following @DiveMedia

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