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April 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Woes Aboard the Sri Lanka Aggressor

and its out of business

from the April, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In January we told the sorry tale of Michael Jst, who planned to travel with the newly converted Sri Lanka Aggressor over Christmas, only to have the Aggressor Fleets cancel the trip as he departed his home in Germany. Because he had made additional ground reservations, he traveled anyhow, though the boat was out of commission. The Aggressor Fleet told him it was due to maintenance issues. While there, he learned there were permit issues, and, as we learned from a newspaper report, the vessel did not meet local regulations, and the government prevented it from sailing. The Aggressor did refund his or other passengers' money.

They washed regulators in the rinse tank without dust caps in place.

In March, we were surprised to receive several disturbing messages from divers who were on board the Sri Lanka Aggressor during February, each story corroborating the next. Most of those who wrote prefer to remain anonymous at this stage.

Apparently, the first week of the charter was inauspicious: This so-called new boat was at least 10 years old, not new, as advertised. Divers reported it in poor condition, with no air conditioning for several days, and toilets that didn't flush. Some bathrooms smelled of sewage so badly that at least one passenger, Allahna Davis, told us that said she preferred not to use her shower.

The water maker apparently stopped working, so that fresh water needed to be conserved. Many cabin doors did not shut properly. Some divers felt that the design of the boat seemed inappropriate for diving. For example, the ornate ball caps on the newel posts on the stairway to the dive platform broke off as fully equipped divers grabbed on to steady themselves. The exposed metal spikes had to be wrapped with dinner napkins.

Some food supplies ran out, there was no consideration for special diets, and one diver said the food was inedible. It was difficult to get anything corrected because of the language barrier between passengers and the mostly Egyptian crew, which also seemed to be untrained in diving matters. For example, they washed regulators in the rinse tank without dust caps in place.

All week, only one inflatable boat functioned. The promised nitrox was never available. The undersea terrain was a desert, the result of generations of trawling, with no coral reefs to speak of. Sri Lanka is mountainous, and huge, murky rivers dump into the ocean, creating poor visibility. On the very first dive, one diver surfaced early because there was nothing to see. Even a cursory glance at the view on Google Earth reveals few topographical features under water.

Because there were few, if any, safe anchorages (and no offshore islands) to give shelter from the Indian Ocean swell, the anchor line broke three times during one week, so the vessel stayed within reach of Colombo. There are a few wrecks near Colombo, but they were so deep that dives lasted 20 minutes. Abandoned fishing nets were strewn about the wrecks.

One group of divers booked the trip through Blue Water Travel, which did all it could to mitigate the problems onboard with David Home, who was said to be the general manager.

A second week was devoted to whale watching instead of scuba diving, as planned, but only one group of passengers in the two inflatable boats actually got to see a whale. The passengers became upset to learn that they did not have permission to snorkel with the whales near Marissa, from where whale-watching boats depart daily. For compensation, the crew took the passengers to a remote beach. One inflatable boat, apparently overloaded with 16 passengers, took a high wave over the aft about 100 feet (30m) from shore, and overturned, launching all the passengers, their gear and cameras into the water.

During the ensuing chaos, one female passenger had her head gashed, while another, an American man named Marshall, was trapped underneath the upturned boat, and a severe impact almost completely severed his ear. Disoriented, he was dragged clear and made it to the beach, where he used a held a wet towel to his head, the only treatment available, to staunch the bleeding. There was a doctor or two among the passengers who might have been able to help once back on the mother craft, but the incomplete medical kit had no sutures. Nor was the Sri Lanka Aggressor's satellite phone operational.

It took eight hours to get into a suitable port, which was not the operational port of the vessel, so bureaucratic problems persisted. After visiting a primitive local clinic, Marshall decided to make the six-and-a-half hour journey to Colombo, where he had reconstructive surgery on the now detached ear with 55 micro-sutures. He was left with multiple hematomas and disfigurement.

The story continues, and no doubt litigation is in the future. Despite the trip being curtailed, some passengers are encountering difficulty in claiming a refund from their travel insurance policies, because cancellation due to an injury to another passenger is not covered. Three passengers who had booked consecutive weeks told Undercurrent that David Home said he was suggesting Aggressor Fleet gave them only a $500 voucher in recompense for the failed air-conditioning. He asked why, if the boat was so bad, they had continued on it for the second week!

Most of our informants prefer Undercurrent not to publish their full names, at the time of writing, for fear it inhibits their claims for compensation.

The Aggressor Fleet has since issued this curious notice, which reads as if the Sri Lanka Aggressor management decided to resign from the fleet, but the Fleet itself is taking no issue with them.

"The Sri Lanka Aggressor has faced numerous challenges on several fronts, and the franchise owners have concluded that they will not be able to deliver consistently the Aggressor experience that our guests have come to expect. Today, we have been notified by the owners that the Sri Lanka Aggressor yacht will cease operations effective March 11th, 2017."

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