Bigger Than The Weather

In 2015 three South African seamen disappeared in the Southern Ocean.

What happened to them?

Words by Kevin Bloom

Edited and produced by Richard Poplak | Design by Stephen Horn for Chronicle

In 2015, after three South African seamen went missing somewhere in the vastness of the Southern Ocean, their families tried to trace their final movements. Uncovering the truth would require going to war with the world’s largest tourism conglomerate, a €20 billion-a-year monolith that had no interest in fielding questions.

— I —


n 12 January 2015, when the International Space Station was 400 kilometres above the eastern fringe of the African island of Madagascar, an image was beamed down to earth. Unscrambled by computers at  NASA’s Earth Observatory, the picture looked like a scene from a sci-fi film. Perhaps the swirling violet abyss at the photograph’s focal core reminded NASA’s engineers of the wormhole into which Hollywood astronauts occasionally disappear—and if so, at least for the families of those caught in the vortex, the analogy was apt. The churning neon thing was the lightening-lit eye of Cyclone Bansi, which had formed the day before and was now gusting at 185 kilometres per hour, or 99.89 knots. It would crest twice over the next few days, into category 4 (113 to 136 knots) and category 5 (137 knots plus), before petering out into a weak extra-tropical system by 19 January.

"If a contractor had issues with a weather forecast ... it was odds-on that he’d be replaced."


Into this maelstrom sailed a brand-new Leopard 44 catamaran, assembled in Cape Town by boat-builders Robertson and Caine. Under different circumstances, the yacht would have taken the slower and safer route from Cape Town to the Thai island of Phuket, but TUI Marine, the world’s largest yacht charter operator—and the new owner of the Leopard 44—had a reputation for getting its assets delivered fast. The South African office of TUI Marine, which traded as Mariner Yachts, was after all just a tiny outpost in a global operation headquartered in the state of Florida, USA—and TUI Marine, in turn, was a tiny subsidiary of the Hanover, Germany-based TUI Group, the world’s largest travel and leisure conglomerate, with 76,000 employees, more than 300 hotels, over 140 aircraft, and turnover for the 2014/15 financial year of €20 billion. For delivery skippers out of South Africa, as for hotel staff, travel agents and cruise ship crews the world over, TUI had become synonymous with employment itself. If a contractor had issues with a weather forecast—even one as potentially catastrophic as a tropical cyclone—it was odds-on that he’d be replaced.

The Leopard 44 under full sail.

At the helm of the Leopard 44 sat Anthony Murray, a skipper whose experience included almost 176,000 nautical miles in a catamaran. Murray was the proverbial captain’s captain, gruff and bighearted, much loved by the men and women he had sailed with during his 30 years at sea. More at home on the water than he was on dry land, he had remained childless, unmarried and untamed. Now age 58, if there was one thing Murray had come to know better than his own temperament, it was his boats. In only 12 knots of wind, under full genoa and main, the Leopard 44 could fetch him up to 8 knots of speed; in ideal conditions, under a 20-knot wind, the speed would be closer to 12 knots. With its cherry veneer interior surfaces, oak-style cabin sole, and $600,000 price-tag, Murray wasn’t about to take chances with a client as demanding as TUI Marine—before each delivery, he would cover the furnishings in plastic.

Leopard 44 promotional video

Accompanying Murray on this voyage were two crew members. There was first mate Reginald “Reg” Robertson (59), who aside from the pay-check would qualify to work as a TUI Marine skipper after the crossing.  And there was deckhand Jaryd Payne (20), who was crossing the ocean for the first time, and was therefore taking his payment—or so he told his mother—in increments of adventure and experience. There was nothing exceptional about the crew, no weaknesses, no obvious gaps in skill, manpower or commitment. Everything should have gone exactly as planned. But what was planned? Were there plans? And had TUI Marine fulfilled all their legal and moral obligations in the event of something going wrong?


The mystery, then, began with the season and the seas in which Murray, Robertson and Payne were sailing. In October 2014, the Mauritius Meteorological Services had issued its outlook for the summer of 2014-15, predicting that between 10 and 12 named storms would develop in the southern Indian Ocean by the following April. Come the end of December 2014, the region had already played host to Adjali, a category 1 cyclone, and Kate, a vicious category 3. Less than two weeks into January, astronauts on the ISS would catch sight of Cyclone Bansi.

A view of Cyclone Bansi from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA


Did this storm deliver instant death to Murray, Robertson and Payne? Did one or more of them manage to survive its fury? Was the Leopard 44 still out there, crippled but afloat, adrift in the vastness of the Southern Ocean? The TUI Group and its dizzying array of companies, sub-companies and legal representatives, along with South Africa’s maritime safety regulator, did not appear to be in a rush to find out. And so into a different sort of storm sailed three families, all trying to determine what had become of their kin. The wormhole they entered was governed by the whims of a massive borderless multinational that, it seemed, had recently begun to lord it over the seas, and over the men and women who sailed them.

— II —

Skipper’s call

irst it was the waiting, then it was the hoping, then it was simply the grief. But behind the mourning, around it and inside it, something was casting a darker shadow over the families of Murray, Robertson and Payne. In this context, a particularly disquieting day was 6 July 2015, which was when ship surveyor Alan Britz of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) signed off his “Preliminary Enquiry Report” into the loss at sea of Moorings A5130—the official name of the missing yacht. On page 38 of the report, under the header “Findings”, the families read that Murray had chosen to “rely on his friend to transmit weather information to the vessel via the vessel’s satellite telephone’s SMS/Email facility.”


In its tone, brevity and inference, it was a remarkable sentence. It reminded the families that three men in the notorious Southern Ocean in the middle of cyclone season, piloting a wedge of glass reinforced plastic a little over a hundred square metres in size, had “relied” upon the messaging facilities of one satellite phone for the information that was most critical to their safety. Worse, as it stated on page 9 of the report, while communications between this “friend” and the vessel happened daily, communications with TUI Marine were scheduled only for Mondays and Thursdays. Implicit in the findings was the fact that, although TUI Marine supplied the Iridium satellite phone, they did not, as a matter of course, fit the vessel with the electronic charts and GPS navigation equipment that could have provided Murray and his crew with advanced warning of dangerous weather systems.


“The Leopard 44 is set up to be a charter boat,” said Justin de Taranto, a yachtsman who had completed two ocean crossings under the stewardship of Murray, during an interview with Daily Maverick. “It is not designed to cross the ocean, even though it’s class A.”

"To say that you don’t get any support doing this job would be very accurate.”


In other words, according to De Taranto, none of the Robertson and Caine yachts that crews had been delivering for TUI Marine were kitted with GPS and electronic charts. “The skipper has got to make the call [on whether to sail] himself,” he went on. “It’s a risky business, everyone knows that. But to say that you don’t get any support doing this job would be very accurate.”


The findings of the SAMSA preliminary report may or may not have borne this last statement out. Where item 10 of the findings concerned the satellite phone, item 11 stated, “The skipper was informed that cyclone BANSI had formed and was heading towards the vessel’s intended track.” But it was in item 12 that the matter began to ferment: “The skipper did not inform the owners that he was navigating in the vicinity of a cyclone.”


It begged a crucial question: was it the skipper’s duty to tell the owner about cyclones in his vicinity, or was the duty the other way around?


An obvious way to begin to answer the question, it appeared, was to study the messages that had passed back and forth between Murray and weather router Bryan Holloway—the so-called “friend” from the SAMSA report—between 11 January and 18 January 2015, when contact had been lost with the yacht. The message log, a full copy of which came into the Daily Maverick’s possession, demonstrated that the crisis arrived like most crises do: slowly at first, and then all at once. What began as a calm back and forth between Murray and Holloway, with the latter providing the waypoint coordinates that the yacht needed to reach in order to dodge the storm, had by the end of the week escalated into a full-scale life-and-death battle.


The penultimate message from Murray’s satellite phone, received by Holloway at 5.46 on the morning of 18 January, said that the crew had been “fucked by Murphy” (as in, the Law) and asked whether Andrew Joos, the delivery skipper in the Leopard 44 ahead, had arrived yet in Phuket. At 9.45 AM, Murray said he would “hove to” (a stalling manoeuvre) until Bansi passed. Holloway’s final message to Moorings A5130, sent at 10.11 AM, stated: “Pity U didn’t get to wpoint. It would have made a big difference. Holding thumbs 4 U. Your experience will count here.”


Murray’s experience, it turned out, did not count in the face of Cyclone Bansi. But again, would it have made any difference if he’d informed TUI Marine?

“The business used to be run by sailors, but that was then.”


“The office staff don’t know what the guys out at sea are dealing with at all,” said De Taranto, when asked whether TUI Marine were equipped to handle an emergency situation. “The business used to be run by sailors, but that was then.”

— III —

The short route

few weeks later, during an interview at his home in Cape Town, these words would be confirmed by one of the most experienced yachtsmen in South Africa—a man with dozens of ocean crossings to his name and a total haul, over his 48 years under sail, of 408,000 nautical miles. A man who, between December 2007 and November 2008, had served as TUI Marine’s commissioning engineer for all catamarans out of the Robertson and Caine yard.


John Titterton, virile and forthright and sporting a full white beard, explained that he had stopped working for TUI Marine back in 2014, due to his wife’s Alzheimer’s. He had been on a delivery trip for the company, he said, when she became ill and forgot to eat. Today he runs a small business from home, which allows him to keep an eye on her. His only contact with TUI is as a part-time weather router for delivery skippers.


“I was responsible for signing boats off,” Titterton said, with reference to the year he’d served as commissioning engineer at TUI’s Cape Town office. He added that his primary task was to check that the yachts acquired from Robertson and Caine were up to spec. “What [TUI Marine] wanted was boats put in the water that weren’t completely built,” he alleged. “Interiors not completed, full of construction faults. I wasn’t prepared to sign off on that, so I went back to doing deliveries.”

“The failure of TUI Marine to respond adequately to the loss at sea ... had everything to do with the company’s modus operandi.”


In Titterton’s estimation, then, the failure of TUI Marine to respond adequately to the loss at sea of Moorings A5130 had everything to do with the company’s modus operandi. He’d written an article to this effect in February 2015, with the intention of sending it to the media. After it was written, he said, he decided to send it instead to Anthony Wighting, the manager of TUI’s Cape Town office, and Peter Cochran, the international vice president of operations. Both men, claimed Titterton, had yet to acknowledge receipt.


Among other things, the article directly addressed the issue of the skipper’s reporting duties. “On each delivery the skipper is required to contact the Cape Town office to report their positions, crew conditions and vessel conditions,” the article stated, “which are logged and the log sent off to various offices around the world for TUI management to keep track of…. This occurs twice a week and has always been the case over the years—but a few things have changed. Let me explain why.”


The article proceeded to run through TUI Marine’s history in South Africa, beginning in the early 2000s with a company called Reliant Yacht Services, which had been set up by seasoned yachtsman Anthony Stewart. Reliant had the contract to deliver all Robertson and Caine catamarans built in Cape Town, and one thing Stewart did, according to Titterton, was ensure that the yachts were delivered during the correct seasons and on safe routes.


For example, he wrote, “deliveries to Australia were all done via Panama Canal and only when it was safe to sail the route and not during cyclone season.” On all deliveries, which numbered over a hundred per year at the time, “skippers were advised of adverse weather conditions on their route whenever they made the satellite call to report in.” There were a few accidents, Titterton conceded, but “no lives or vessels were ever lost and control was kept on the many vessels on delivery at any given time.”


In 2008, after Stewart sold the company to TUI Marine, the business was moved from the old Elliot Basin in Cape Town harbour to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, where it shared space with the private sales and holiday booking divisions of TUI Travel. “Also,” Titterton alleged, “things changed in the USA and people with no or little knowledge of sailing were employed and put into management positions to control the deliveries out of Cape Town.” The routes were altered, the article contended, and “suddenly skippers were told that they no longer could take the long and safe route to Australia, but needed to take the shorter but more dangerous route via the southern Indian Ocean.”


According to Titterton, “Deliveries to the Mediterranean destinations were stopped and the boats were shipped, leaving dozens of delivery skippers without work even though the shipping cost the company a lot more than delivering the boats on their own bottoms.” After that, deliveries to the United States and Caribbean were cancelled, and more skippers and crew lost their income. “The few deliveries that were taking place with a skipper and crew suddenly found that they no longer were being given weather information, as those in the Cape Town office were unable to assist and basically had grown lethargic in their jobs.”


Justin de Taranto, who had likewise delivered yachts for TUI Marine before taking up a career as a sailing teacher, had told a similar tale. The way De Taranto remembered it, the industry had been gutted when the “milk run” to the Bahamas was closed—a “milk run”, he’d explained, because it was the safest and easiest route going. He had estimated that there were a hundred delivery skippers at the industry’s peak, adding that this had been whittled down over the years to around ten. Those ten, he’d said, “are all going to be the best.”

— IV —

‘A bit of bad weather’

iane Coetzer had always called Anthony Murray, the Leopard 44’s skipper, her brother-in-law, although technically it wasn’t true. But she had been the life partner of Jeremy Savage, Murray’s younger brother, for almost a quarter-century—had in fact raised four children with him—so the technicalities were beside the point. The important thing was, Murray deeply valued his relationship with the family, and they in turn loved nothing better than his stories of whales and trade winds and dodgy ports. A journalist and writer, Coetzer had begun compiling these stories into a book on Murray’s career. “He said it would be a bestseller,” Coetzer explained. “And then he could retire.”

Anthony Murray. Image courtesy of the family.

In February 2016, the book had been on hold for a year. Coetzer’s journalism experience was being put to more urgent use, and she had been faithfully chasing down the story, trying to figure out how a yachtsman as skilled as Murray could simply disappear.

Reginald "Reg" Robertson. Image courtesy of the family.

Jaryd Payne. Image courtesy of the family.

“From the time I first made contact with [TUI Marine] on February 5th last year,” she said, “there was an obvious resistance to giving me and Jeremy basic information about the vessel. It became very clear that they were not going to report the boat missing, so we had to do it ourselves.”


Coetzer’s contact was a woman named Nicky Murison-Burt, who worked in the operations department of TUI’s Cape Town office, which her email signature identified by its locally registered name of Mariner Yachts. The staffer in charge of appointing delivery skippers in South Africa, she was the person to whom the families of Murray, Robertson and Payne initially turned.


At 11.07 AM on 5 February 2015, the following SMS was sent from Coetzer’s iPhone to a contact listed as “Nicky – Tui Marine”: “Hi Nicky – I just tried to call you – my name is Diane Coetzer – I am Anthony Murray’s sister in law. I am just trying to see if he is delivering a yacht for you in Thailand – could you let me know with some urgency – many thanks – Diane”.


Coetzer, having grown concerned about Murray, and realising she didn’t know for whom he was sailing, had set about locating the company via Internet searches and phone calls. Mavericks Yachts in Cape Town had given her the contact for Robertson and Caine, who had then put her on to Murison-Burt, who called back within half-an-hour of receiving the SMS. According to Coetzer, she confirmed that Murray was sailing for Mariner Yachts, and that she hadn’t heard from the vessel since 18 January. “She reassured me,” said Coetzer, “that it was a broken satellite phone. She claimed something like, ‘Broken satellite phones are not unusual, they can get wet.’ She told me that the emergency signal hadn’t been activated, and that this was a good sign. She also said, and I’ll never forget this, ‘They ran into a bit of bad weather’.”


Before hanging up, Murison-Burt promised daily updates. Two days later, when Coetzer hadn’t received word, she sent an SMS asking whether anything had changed since Thursday. On Monday 9 February, when Murison-Burt still hadn’t replied, Savage called at around 10.00 AM. According to Savage, Murison-Burt told him that they were giving it another 24 hours, and would then let the families know what action would be taken. By the afternoon of Tuesday 10 February no answer had been received, and Savage dialled her number once more.


The conversation did not go well. Murison-Burt apparently got agitated with Savage, brushing him off. When Savage asked for the name of her boss, she refused to provide it—Savage’s kneejerk response was to suggest taking the story to the press. Murison-Burt, not appreciating the threat, allegedly asked Savage if he wanted her to “get on a fucking helicopter and fly there”. But if there was one statement that properly unnerved Savage, it was this: “She tells me, unless something called the ‘EPIRB’ went off, that they wouldn’t do anything for 65 days, because that’s the time it takes for the supplies to run out.”

“They wouldn’t do anything for 65 days, because that’s the time it takes for the supplies to run out.”


Savage rang off and opened his laptop, learning that EPIRB was short for “Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon”. He read that it was a requirement under an act of South African parliament that the device, a portable piece of hardware, got registered with the communications regulator before each voyage—this was to ensure that the signal could be traced back to the correct vessel. He knew in his gut now that the situation was beyond dire.


Distressed as he was, Savage got it together to send Murison-Burt an email at 7.32 PM that same day. The email detailed the allegedly offensive statements the TUI staffer had made, as well as the families’ concerns after the yacht had failed to materialise in Phuket on 2 February—the expected date of arrival. Over a week had elapsed with no word from the crew. “I’m not sure how many days it is before you intend making efforts at locating the boat,” he wrote. “Right now however I view your ‘wait and see’ inactivity as tantamount to reckless and negligent disregard for the safety of my brother and his crew members.”


Savage then asked for the following: the boat’s Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) allocation number; the exact date Murray had left Cape Town harbour; the flight plan that had been filed when Murray departed; Murray’s last reported position to TUI Marine; the date of the last communication; the last activity recorded by satellite phone; and the boat’s final destination port.


On 11 February 2015, at 1:58 PM, Savage sent this email: “Nicky - you have not replied to my mail or text. We are reporting the boat as missing to the relevant authorities. Your refusal to provide us with the boat's name and official details is noted.”


At 7.58 PM a reply came back. Murison-Burt wrote that she had been “unfortunately off ill” and that she would provide the requested information when she returned to work the following day.


It would prove an empty promise. The next time the families would get as close to a representative of TUI Marine would be in April 2015, when international vice president of operations Peter Cochran would pitch up unannounced at the “search closure” meeting with his lawyers in tow.

— V —

‘Impracticable’ for air and satellite search

he last satellite communication out of Moorings A5130, the lost Leopard 44, came from one of the most isolated places on earth. On the northern edge of the Southern Ocean, at a point around two-thirds from the southern tip of Africa in an approximate line to the southern tip of Australia, it demonstrated how far off the course to Thailand the yacht had sailed in its attempt to evade the cyclone. The nearest piece of land, about a thousand nautical miles to the southwest, was a French outpost called Ile Kerguelen.

Click to view interactive map full screen.

Credit: Andrea Teagle/CARTO


“Nicky Murison-Burt refused to report it to MRCC,” John Titterton said, referring to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, a division of SAMSA. “She waited 25 days before the families reported it to MRCC and forced her to respond.”


Why might that be? Titterton surmised that she had been instructed by her head office in the United States to wait until an EPIRB signal was received. This squared not only with what Savage had claimed, but with something Coetzer had mentioned too. “Murison-Burt kept on saying to the families, ‘Everything will be revealed by the EPIRB, everything will be revealed by the EPIRB.’”


As far as Titterton was concerned, if MRCC had known about the yacht’s predicament within 24 to 48 hours, they would have sent ships to the last known position immediately. “It’s a requirement by any maritime person to divert and assist another seaman in need,” he said. “If there was a ship, and there were ships from what I can understand within close proximity of that vessel, they would have been diverted and they would have assisted. There’s always the possibility that they could have found life on board that boat. Who knows? Now nobody will ever know.”


Titterton had come to be in possession of the search and rescue notification out of Australia’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), which had assumed authority over the international operation after the families had sounded the alarm. He had secured the document after Trevor Payne, the young deckhand’s father, had approached him for assistance with a radio query related to the case (Titterton had earned a reputation as a ham radio buff). Given his history with TUI Marine, he’d made it known that he could offer a lot more help than just the radio details—and the families had gratefully accepted. The JRCC search and rescue notification was one of the first documents that had raised Titterton’s suspicions, and on investigation he’d found that the published “radio call sign” had not been allocated to Moorings A5130 but to a vessel called Moorings A5114. He had then embarked on a process that only a modern mariner of his experience would have known how to perform. He took something called the EPIRB HEX ID number, CB29D71D70D34D1, and entered it into something called the COSPAS-SARSAT database, converting it to produce the MMSI number, which was 601171700. The MMSI number did not match with the one that Titterton had obtained for Moorings A5130.


Titterton had then contacted Jacques Smit of MRCC Cape Town, to inform him of the irregularities. Smit, according to Titterton, said he was “aware of the discrepancies in the documentation used in the search for Moorings A5130 and that the EPIRB issued to Moorings A5130 had not been registered to the vessel due to a paperwork error.”


Titterton could not accept this explanation. He emphasised what was stated in item 4 of the JRCC notification document—mainly because the item highlighted why, in search and rescue operations on the open ocean, the first 24 to 48 hours was critical: “Due to the size of the search area (over 2 million square nautical miles) and the distance offshore (over 2000 nautical miles) the area is impracticable to search by aircraft. JRCC Australia has investigated satellite interrogation of the search area, however due to the size of the target, resolution of satellite images and size of the search area, this too is impracticable.”


In other words, in this enormous expanse of sea, the realistic cut-off point for finding a stricken 13-metre yacht—and any human beings who might be clinging to it—was significantly less than three-and-a-half weeks.

— VI —

‘G&T in hand’

n 20 February 2015, one month and two days after the last message was received from Moorings A5130, TUI Marine published a press release on the website of its UK-based yacht charter subsidiary, Sunsail. In the “About Us” section of the website, potential customers could learn that Sunsail, founded in 1974, had become “the world’s largest sailing and watersports holiday company,” with over 800 yachts in 25 locations worldwide. And so, whether you were “looking to sit back, G&T in hand on a crewed yacht letting the skipper do all the work… or experience the thrill of gliding along the waves in one of the world’s largest sailing regattas,” Sunsail had a solution for you.


The company’s solution to the loss at sea of its brand-new Leopard 44 was to insist that it had “reported a missing yacht crew”—and that, by implication, it had acted on its own initiative. Sunsail stated that the Thailand Navy, the Australian, Indonesian and Thailand coast guard authorities, as well as MRCC of South Africa, “were contacted initially by Sunsail on 12 February”. The assertions were made in almost every subsequent press release, with the missing catamaran uniformly accorded its other name, Sunsail RC044-978.


The email sent by Diane Coetzer to a member of the MRCC call centre in Cape Town at 10.48AM on 12 February 2015 would appear to give the lie to Sunsail’s PR efforts. This email laid out not only everything the families knew about the missing yacht, but also all the pertinent details of the correspondence with Nicky Murison-Burt between 5 February and 11 February 2015. It was stated in the email that TUI Marine had not yet responded to the request for the boat’s MMSI number, flight plan and departure and arrival points, and that, although Murison-Burt had promised to supply these herself on 12 February when she returned to work, she hadn’t yet done so. Coetzer then gave the MRCC call centre agent the cell number and email address for Murison-Burt, signing off with these words: “We would like to note that the contracting yachting company has thus far failed to give us the information and reassurance we require. We are however very grateful for your concern and actions.”


TUI Marine, despite repeated requests, has declined the Daily Maverick’s invitation to comment for this article. The most received by way of response was an email on 26 February 2016 from Marion Telsnig, Sunsail’s head of public relations and sustainable development, which stated that we could “find all information” on their press office site—the same site, with the same content, as quoted above. What seemed now beyond doubt was that this policy of silence, if that’s indeed what it was, had begun soon after 18 January 2015. And so a critical question remained unanswered: how soon after—or perhaps before—the line to Moorings A5130 went dead did the company know about Cyclone Bansi?

“How soon after—or perhaps before—the line to Moorings A5130 went dead did the company know about Cyclone Bansi?”


“She knew they got whacked by a cyclone,” said John Titterton, referring to an alleged phone call he’d made to Nicky Murison-Burt in mid-February 2015. “I asked her if she had been in touch with Bryan Holloway. And she confirmed that she had been. And I said, ‘Recently?’ And she said, ‘No, a few weeks ago.’”


There was, it turned out, another source for this news. According to Coetzer, Murison-Burt knew about the cyclone “within days” of it developing—because she had been told of it by Andrew Joos, the skipper of the Leopard 44 ahead of Murray’s. And Joos, as Murray’s message log made clear, had also been routed by Holloway.


“Jeremy called Bryan Holloway in May 2015,” said Coetzer, “the first time anybody from the family group had spoken to him. During that conversation, he revealed two things. The one being, Bryan said he had been in contact with Andrew Joos, and Joos had informed Nicky within the first week of the signal going dead on 18 January 2015. The second thing Bryan said was that they were made to take a particular route through the southern Indian Ocean, which was the faster but more hazardous route in cyclone season.”

“They were made to take a particular route ... the faster but more hazardous route.”


Joos would inform the Daily Maverick, via an intermediary, that he did not wish to discuss the matter any further as he had already “given everything he knows” to SAMSA. Holloway would likewise remain unreachable.


But Savage, after confirming the contents of his phone call with the weather router, would open up about the last conversation he ever had with his brother.


“Anthony said it was going to be his final trip for them. He never spoke to me about work, so when he did say things it was pretty strong. It was a week before he left. I heard rage I hadn’t heard in years. He said he had a fight. ‘What,’ I asked, ‘with the guys in the boat?’ ‘No Jeremy,’ he said, ‘with the owners of the boat.’ He was being patronising because I wasn’t paying attention.”


The reason for the fight, according to Savage, was that the yacht hadn’t been handed over on time. “They were fucking around with the boat,” Anthony had said.

— VII —

Lords of land and sea

n almost every respect the TUI Group is the perfect multinational, a many-headed hydra with a murky past and a modern corporate structure that’s almost impossible to decode. Its origins lie deep beneath the earth’s crust, in the German mining company Preussag AG, which was incorporated in 1923 and benefited greatly from the Nazi war machine—metals and minerals being in high demand in Nazi Germany, Preussag was gifted operating rights, via the French Vichy government, to the Bor copper mines in occupied Yugoslavia. The company’s expansion into industrial and transportation services continued apace after the war, and in 1997 it acquired one of Germany’s leading tourism and shipping conglomerates, Hapag-Lloyd.


This foray into the leisure business was facilitated in no small part by Preussag’s sale of Salzgitter AG, which had come into the world in 1937 as Reichswerke Hermann Göring—Hermann Göring Works—the largest economic enterprise of the Third Reich. Acquired in 1989, Preussag’s timing of the sale could not have been better. In 2000, the year after Preussag resolved to shed its industrial subsidiaries, Salzgitter was disgraced in the international press for its reluctance to contribute to a fund for surviving slave labourers (in the event, Salzgitter would eventually deposit all of $2.5 million into the fund).

“Its origins lie... in the German mining company Preussag AG, which... benefited greatly from the Nazi war machine.”


And so the stage was now set for Preussag’s dominance of leisure time on land and at sea. With the logistics activities, concentrated in the shipping sector, bundled into Hapag-Lloyd AG, the executives embarked on a share-buying offensive against the world’s major tour operators, beginning with 50 percent of Thomas Cook in 1998. As was the general fashion in post-Cold War Europe, the company’s structure began to look ever more opaque—Thomas Cook, for one, was merged with the Carlson Leisure Group into a holding company owned by Westdeutsche Landesbank, Carlson Inc and, lastly, Preussag itself. Then, in 2002, the TUI logo was unveiled—the name is an acronym for Touristik Union International—and the past was all but erased. Although TUI would be forced by regulatory authorities to let go of Thomas Cook after it bought Thomson Travel in the mid-2000s, this would prove a minor blip. In June 2007 the European Commission would approve a merger with the British tour operator First Choice, and in September of that year a true giant would be born: TUI Travel PLC.


“In many areas the integration process was much faster than we originally thought possible,” said TUI Group CEO, Friedrich Joussen, when the mother of all mergers was pulled off seven years later—the merger between TUI Travel PLC and its equally enormous namesake, TUI AG. “The industrial rationale behind the merger,” Joussen added, “was to create a close interweave between the tour operators on the one hand and our own hotel and cruise companies on the other.”


As per the 2014/15 financial report, the newly integrated TUI Group now controlled the “end-to-end customer journey, from inspiration and advice, to booking, flight, inbound services and accommodation” for 20 million customers. Over 7 million customers were accommodated for the reporting period in the group’s hotels and cruise ships. The 140 aircraft operated by five tourism-focused airlines had flown 13 million holidaymakers during the financial year, and the inbound services division—located in 100 destinations and staffed by 6,500 employees—had attended to the needs of 11 million. The group’s revenue for the year, at €20 billion and change, was translated into a happy outcome for shareholders, whose dividend payouts had grown by more than 70 percent.


Where was the South African-based Mariner Yachts in all of this? In the 300-plus page report the company was mentioned only once, in the notes section at the back where the TUI Group complied—as per German law—with the requirement to disclose the entirety of its holdings. These “notes” contained listings for more than 500 consolidated companies, the vast majority of which were marked as 100 percent owned, as well as a further 50 or so listed under “joint ventures and associated companies”. Sunsail got 11 mentions, in countries of incorporation from Antigua and Barbuda to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Moorings/The Moorings—TUI Marine’s other major yacht charter subsidiary—got listed 12 times. The yacht named Moorings A5130/ Sunsail RC044-978 was absent from the report.


But on page 105, under the header “Principal Risks”, a statement was made that should have been germane to the yacht’s disappearance: “As the TUI Group is the world’s leading tourism business operating from 31 source markets and providing holidays in over 180 destinations, we are exposed to a range of laws and regulations with which we must comply or else risk incurring fines or other sanctions from regulatory bodies.”

— VIII —

Lawyering up

here were a lot of ifs that accompanied the disappearance of Anthony Murray, Reginald Robertson and Jaryd Payne. If Murray hadn’t needed the money;  if Robertson hadn’t needed his TUI skipper credentials;  if Payne had just stuck to the dream that his mother said was his first one, which was to be a soccer pro. If TUI Marine had signed off on the boat on time. And then there was the big if: what if Anthony, Reg and Jaryd weren’t dead?

“What if Anthony, Reg and Jaryd weren’t dead?”


Two meetings were held in Cape Town at which family members and MRCC officials came together to confront the inevitable. According to Lisa Payne, TUI Marine had shut down all channels of communication in mid-February 2015, after she had attempted in her desperation for answers to barge into the company’s Cape Town office. While the search and rescue operation was in progress, and then intermittently for months afterwards, Lisa would be plagued by visions of her son’s ordeal on what she imagined was a stricken but upright boat: what was Jaryd eating, what was he drinking, how was he keeping himself occupied?


At the first meeting with MRCC, on 13 April 2015, Payne could do no more than sit in her chair and sob. “Peter Cochran was there with his attorneys,” she remembered, referring to TUI Marine’s international vice president of operations. “It was a terrible day for us.” On that occasion, it was Coetzer who expressed the indignation of the group. “He didn’t look at us,” she said of Cochran. “He didn’t even introduce himself with a hand-shake.” The two attorneys, according to Coetzer, identified themselves as “advisors” to TUI Marine’s international VP—who, she’d assumed, had flown in from the US for the meeting. But what would bother Coetzer the most, after she had done a little research, was that Cochran’s lawyers were from the firm of Shepstone & Wiley, which was located in the same building in Cape Town as SAMSA’s corporate division (the latter occupies the 19th floor of 2 Long Street, the former the 18th floor). Edmund Greiner, a partner in the firm and one of the attorneys present, had as per his own resumé done work for SAMSA in the past. Given that the families would come to the conclusion that the SAMSA preliminary report placed undue emphasis on “skipper error”, this would eventually go near the top of their list of grievances.


On the day of the meeting, however, the families’ immediate concern was for the removal of the American and his lawyers from the room. After Coetzer asked why they were there, in a session that was supposed to be about “closure”, the meeting’s chair, Captain Ravi Naicker of the MRCC, instructed the three TUI Marine representatives to leave. At the second meeting called by the MRCC, which took place on 20 May 2015, only one Shepstone & Wiley lawyer, Johan Swart, was present—he was, according to Coetzer, "sitting very cosy" with ship surveyor Alan Britz, who would be putting together the preliminary report for SAMSA.


The following is an excerpt from an email that Trevor Payne wrote to Commander Tsietsi Mokhele, at the time the CEO of SAMSA, on 2 July 2015: “Our second and closing meeting with MRCC took place on 20 May 2015, during which Mr Alan Britz was also present. We expressed our concerns as we, the family members, had gathered a lot of information regarding irregularities and safety issues related specifically to SV Moorings A5130. Mr Britz requested that we compile an official list of questions and concerns and send this to him as part of his ongoing investigation, which we did. To date, the families have had no direct update from Mr Britz regarding the ongoing process and status of the investigation and our questions.”


There never would be a direct update from Britz; there would only be the report itself. A report in which item 13 of the findings would state: “Neither the routing advice from the skipper’s friend nor the actions of the skipper were consistent with generally accepted good seamanship tactics for avoiding cyclones.” But something else had happened in the interim, a near miraculous event that had given the families renewed hope for clarity.

“A near miraculous event ... had given the families renewed hope...”


On 21 May 2015, one day after their final meeting with the MRCC and six days after the official closure of the search and rescue operation, a capsized hull was spotted by a passing container ship en route from Savannah in the USA to Xiamen in China. Although the cargo ship was not able to conduct further investigations and departed the area once the sun had set, the photographic evidence would tentatively identify the hull as that of Moorings A5130.

An image of the upturned hull of what was likely Moorings A5130, Indian Ocean, May 2015; co-ordinates 27-26.4S and 064-30.0E


— IX —


or about two months before the hull was sighted, a group of more than 25,000 satellite imaging enthusiasts had been searching for signs of Moorings A5130 via the website Tomnod—the same site that had been used by around 2 million hobbyists in their search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which had in March 2014 also disappeared somewhere in the vastness of the Indian Ocean. And yet when the hull was eventually discovered, not by Tomnodders but by crewmen on the Xiamen-bound cargo ship, neither the authorities nor TUI Marine went out to look for signs of life.


The MRCC did monitor drift patterns, however, broadcasting alerts to all passing ships, and on 5 June the upturned hull was spotted and photographed again—by a passing tanker. The tanker was asked to turn around and assess the viability of a recovery attempt, but by the time it had completed its turn the hull once more was lost.


At which point TUI Marine got in on the action. The company appointed a firm in Mauritius to search for the upturned hull, arranging for a team of divers to join the crew. On 2 July, a press release appeared on the Sunsail website to this effect, stating that the company had “in principle agreed with the legal representatives of the families” that “an independent observer, jointly appointed by Sunsail and the families” would accompany the search team. “The humanitarian purpose of the voyage,” Sunsail added, “will be to attempt to locate the yacht, determine if it is indeed the RC044-978 and establish whether any of the crew are still on board. If the yacht is found to be the RC044-978 and nothing is found on board she will be sunk.”


The families, it so happened, had been compelled to appoint lawyers after Peter Cochran had materialised at the MRCC meeting in April with his associates from Shepstone & Wiley. All contact with TUI Marine since that date had thus been billed at lawyer rates, including the time spent securing the independent observer. Curiously, the families had not been able to rely on either SAMSA or the MRCC to represent their interests during the search.

“The families had not been able to rely on either SAMSA or the MRCC.”


“We were informed by MRCC on 12 June 2015,” Payne wrote to Commander Mokhele of SAMSA, on the same date (2 July) on which Sunsail had issued their press release, “that an offer of representation on board TUI Marine’s contracted search vessel was extended to both MRCC and SAMSA authorities but for whatever reason, was subsequently turned down by both organisations. This means there will be no SAMSA representation on the boat that will be leaving Mauritius between the 3rd and 5th of July as indicated by the legal team from TUI Marine.”


The families were hoping, the email to Mokhele went on, that by bringing the matter to the attention of the CEO of SAMSA, a “full salvage” would be conducted and the vessel would be prevented from being sunk. As Coetzer would later say, by July 2015 four long months had passed, and most of the family members were resigned to the fact that supplies on the yacht, even if thinly spread, had long since run out. A case docket had however been opened with the South African Police Service, and the families wanted to ensure that as much evidence was gathered as possible.

“A case docket had however been opened with the South African Police Service...”


Commander Mokhele was unmoved. On 31 August 2015, weeks after the TUI search had been called off—the hull could not be located—he sent a letter to the families wherein he exercised the prerogative of his maritime erudition. “Salvage by definition is the removal of the wreck which imposes risk of polluting the environment and danger to safety of navigation by ships,” he wrote.

— X —

Gaming the emergency system

ommander Mokhele would have no doubt been versed in the Merchant Shipping Regulations of 2002, which falls under section 356 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951, stipulating that it is the duty of every operator and master of a ship to ensure that the EPIRB—the ship’s de facto black box—is registered with the appropriate authority. He would have known too that the appropriate authority in this case was the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), and that in terms of power and purpose that organisation wasn’t a whole lot different from SAMSA. Would he have known about the fraud committed against the Merchant Shipping Act with respect to the vessel Moorings A5130? Without a full court case, it’s impossible to know—although Mokhele’s erstwhile employee, ship surveyor Alan Britz, had alluded to it in his report.

“The EPIRB for Moorings A5130 had not been programmed for that specific vessel.”


“The ship station licence and MMSI number allocation for Moorings A5130 was not acquired from ICASA according to verbal reports from the responsible TUI Marine representative,” noted Britz on page 32 of his preliminary enquiry. “The representative also stated that the EPIRB for Moorings A5130 had not been programmed for that specific vessel. It was not stated where the documents were procured from.”


And there, aside from a cursory mention of further investigations that revealed “numerous TUI Marine vessels” going to sea with “incorrectly registered” EPIRBs, ship station licences, radio call signs, and MMSI numbers, was where the preliminary report left it. There would be no “final” report on the loss of Moorings A5130. There would be no censure of TUI Marine. The full story, yet again, would have to come from John Titterton and the families of Murray, Robertson and Payne.


In the weeks and months after 12 February 2015, when de facto authority over Moorings A5130 had passed out of the hands of TUI Marine and into the hands of MRCC and their Australian counterparts, the families were finally provided with all of the documents that they had requested from Nicky Murison-Burt. There was one document, however, that they hadn’t requested—because they hadn’t known that they needed it, or what it was. This was the proof of registration of the EPIRB for the vessel. On receiving the document from MRCC, Trevor Payne sent it on to Titterton. It would turn out to be the final, and perhaps the key, element of the mystery.

“It would turn out to be the final, and perhaps the key, element of the mystery.”


“I couldn’t understand,” said Titterton, “why an EPIRB and radio licence was issued to a boat before it had even been built.” Normally, he stated, TUI Marine would apply for the certificate about a month before the handover from Robertson and Caine. The date on the certificate issued to Moorings A5130 was 24 June 2014.


Titterton began making calls. He was told by Andrew Ramsay of Global Marine Systems (GMS), the company that handled all the programming for TUI Marine’s EPIRBs, that they hadn’t done any programming for TUI Marine/Mariner Yachts since 27 June 2014. “I spoke to Jacques Smit of MRCC Cape Town,” Titterton said, “and he verbally confirmed that they had not received any new data for inclusion in the database since that date, but confirmed that they had received one shortly after the incident with A5130 became public. He did not mention which delivery vessel this was for.”


As it happened, Titterton had an inside track on the falsification of EPIRB registrations. Shortly after he became aware of the loss of communication with Moorings A5130, he routed a skipper to Phuket. “I moved him up through the Mozambique Channel, to Seychelles, the Maldives, and then to the destination, because that’s the safe route. If a storm comes, at least you can get out the way or go hide in Madagascar somewhere.”


While this skipper was at sea, Titterton had begun his digging on the A5130 case. When the skipper returned, Titterton queried him about the EPIRB he’d been issued by Louis Makendlana, the logistics manager at TUI Marine. Titterton then phoned Smit, who checked on his database to see if the EPIRB was registered. It wasn’t.


“Immediately after that I routed another young fellow, Dylan le Roux, also on the safe route to Phuket. I found that Dylan’s EPIRB wasn’t registered either. I got Jacques Smit to falsify the registration, because if it had gone off they wouldn’t have known who to call.”


And that was the thing. As Titterton remembered the process during his time as a TUI Marine delivery skipper, the EPIRB would always be reprogrammed before a voyage. The new data would be entered into a dedicated computer by GMS, TUI Marine’s contracted company for the service, and tests would be done to ensure that the software was working, that the battery was in order, that the electric circuitry wasn’t faulty. TUI Marine would apply to ICASA at the same time for a new radio licence, MMSI number, and ship station call sign. If all was in order, the skipper could be sure that should he find himself in an emergency—a tropical cyclone in the Southern Ocean, say—the EPIRB would send a distress signal, and the people on shore would know from which vessel it had come.


Which looped back to the strange date on the certificate issued to Moorings A5130. “On closer examination,” said Titterton, “I noticed a small line under the last two digits of the vessel name and decided to try and determine if it was a true copy of the original or had been altered.”


On 27 March 2015, said Titterton, he contacted the ICASA offices in Cape Town and spoke to a gentleman who gave his name as Gareth. Titterton gave Gareth the licence number on the form—00-540-771-7—and was told that this licence had been issued on 24 June 2014 to the vessel Moorings A5114, with allocated ships station call sign ZR6016 and MMSI number 601201600. Titterton was now convinced that the vessel name on the form had been deliberately changed.

“Titterton was now convinced that the vessel name on the form had been deliberately changed.”


He informed Trevor Payne, who immediately informed the families—Storme Robertson, Reg's daughter, passed the form onto her fiancé Alex Piddington, a graphic designer. The result was an enhancement of the section of the form that depicted the last two digits of the vessel’s name. From this enhancement, it was clear that a small square of paper with the number “30” in the correct font had been pasted over whatever number was there before, and a photocopy was then made of the fraudulent document to pass it off as a copy of the original.

On 31 March 2016, to confirm that the “30” had been pasted over a “14”, the Daily Maverick called the ICASA offices in Cape Town to enquire whether the licence number 00-540-771-7 had indeed been allocated to Moorings A5114. An agent named Denis said that he couldn’t help, as his system told him that “the licence was cancelled on 2 October 2015”. Denis then said, “Somebody from your side requested the cancellation.”


That “somebody”, he continued, was from Mariner Yachts.

— XI —

 ‘Never sail again’

ritz’s preliminary report considered none of this. Citing the Multihull Handbook for Cruisers by Andrew Simpson, he’d returned time and again to the role played by Murray and his “friend”—aka, weather router Bryan Holloway—in bringing the tragedy upon themselves. The tone had been set on page 2 of the preliminary report, in the fourth paragraph of the synopsis: “The skipper broadly followed the advice of his friend giving weather and routing advice by attempting to pass ahead of the cyclone. This advice and action is contrary to generally accepted good seamanship tactics for avoiding tropical revolving storms (cyclones).”


Implying, not only was Murray at fault for heaving to, he was also at fault for trying to outrun the storm. Above which, it was his friend’s fault for putting him in the path of the cyclone in the first place—as per the implication in the opening sentence of the conclusion to the report, which had been confidently entitled “Cause”: “The skipper was relying on severely abridged weather information and forecasts to ensure that a safe passage was plotted on a voyage during cyclone season.”

“Why was the skipper in the Southern Ocean during cyclone season?”


Why was the skipper in the Southern Ocean during cyclone season? Here Britz had not been quite as equivocal, other than to remark on page 8: “The skipper reported to TUI Marine that he would cross to Phuket using the ‘Southern Route’.”


Britz, clearly, hadn’t asked Bryan Holloway whether Murray had been pressured into taking the Southern Route—as Holloway had allegedly told Jeremy Savage. Or, if he had, the answer hadn’t made it into SAMSA’s official record. But while the Daily Maverick failed to reach Holloway himself for corroboration, we did manage to reach Dylan le Roux, the skipper that Titterton had steered to Phuket via the “safe route” in early 2015.


Le Roux confirmed that Titterton had asked him for his EPIRB details while he was under sail. The EPIRB, he said, turned out to be unregistered. “John got MRCC to put it on the system without it being checked,” he said. Le Roux also said that TUI Marine “weren’t happy at all” when he informed them, following Titterton’s “demands”, that he wouldn’t be taking the Southern Route to Thailand. Did TUI Marine attempt to pressure Le Roux into changing his mind? “They weren’t saying it directly,” he recalled, “but they were saying, ‘It’s okay, all the other boats have done it, everyone does it this way,’ and so on.”


Le Roux then added, “If you don’t do things TUI’s way, they push you out.” These words had been echoed by Lisa Payne, who had referred to a  conversation with Nicky Murison-Burt, and how she had reacted to a mother’s panic regarding the safety of her son. “Nicky told me I’m overreacting. She said with a mother like me, Jaryd will never sail again.”


Jaryd Payne never would sail again. It certainly wasn’t the fault of his mother, but was it the fault of Anthony Murray? If Britz had wanted to prove that, he would have needed to interview a few sailors who’d crossed the ocean with Murray, sailors like Justin de Taranto, who said, “He had more experience in blue water sailing than pretty much anyone I know.” In his report, Britz had not quoted a single sailor who knew, or had been skippered by, Murray—he hadn’t even quoted Andrew Joos, the skipper in the Leopard 44 ahead of Murray’s, who said that he had told SAMSA “everything”.


And that wasn’t where the report’s omissions ended. Why had Britz consistently referred to weather router Bryan Holloway as Murray’s “friend” and not used official parlance or more identifying language? Why hadn’t Britz quoted Andrew Ramsay at GMS about the programming of TUI Marine’s EPIRBs? Why were there only four sentences in the entire 41-page report dedicated to the subject of “communications between TUI Marine and the families of the crew”? Here, the report fell back on a double loop: “The office staff did not think that the vessel was in distress, since no EPIRB signal had been received by the authorities.”


A signal that was impossible to receive, because the biggest tourism company in the world had failed to register the EPIRB for Moorings A5130.

“The biggest tourism company in the world had failed to register the EPIRB for Moorings A5130.”


The mystery, which had begun with the season and the seas in which Murray, Robertson and Payne were sailing, was as good as solved. The only reasonable explanation for TUI Marine’s behaviour was precisely in the phrase “biggest in the world”. The company’s framing ideology, at once ubiquitous and invisible, was driven by a system that held monopoly control as the final arbiter of success: a system dialled up to 11 on outsourcing, dialled down close to zero on labour protection, and offering a grand prize to the winners (aside from the tax breaks) of an “exempt” pass to flash at the regulators. The TUI Group, which had come up under national socialism, had emerged victorious at the game of winner-takes-all capitalism.


If there was an irony in that, it was no consolation to the families of Murray, Robertson and Payne. Their only recourse was to social media and the web—in the former case, a Facebook community called “Searching for Anthony, Reg & Jaryd”, which at the time of this writing is still active with 5,010 members, and in the latter case a website called “Blood on the Hulls”, which went live after Moorings A5130 came home.


On 14 January 2016, almost a year to the day since the last message had been received from Murray, a capsized catamaran hull was spotted by a Brazilian navy ship within 80 nautical miles of Port Elizabeth. In the eyes of even the least sentimental of the family members, this represented some indefinable, seaborne version of closure. Trevor Payne immediately contacted John Titterton, who plotted the hull’s position and informed Payne that it was going to drift up the continental shelf; with the assistance of the members of the Facebook community, the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was recruited to help. On 23 January, the NSRI launched an inflatable rescue craft. The crew located and photographed the vessel, and sent down free divers to investigate. The yacht was positively identified as Moorings A5130, a satellite tracking beacon was attached to the hull for the MRCC to monitor, and the tugboat Peridot was activated to attempt a tow to the closest port.

“I told Trevor at the time that they’re moving too fast,” said Titterton. He was referring to the fact that the divers had discovered a barnacle-encrusted mast attached to the hull, and that this would create huge drag. “They were doing sometimes up to five, five-and-a-half knots. And, well, what happened is what I thought would happen. ” The towrope ripped the boat in two. “I think it sank right where it was,” said Titterton.


At 10.25 PM on 26 January 2016, at coordinates 34°38,901’S and 018°47,020’E, in a depth of 157 metres, what remained of Moorings A5130 came to rest on the sea floor. The “Blood on the Hulls” website was up six days later—a new allegation on the site contended that while TUI executives had flown in from the USA and other territories to “meet the vessel”, they had decided, since the yacht had sunk, that it did not “serve any purpose” to make the formal acquaintance of the families. This exchange, according to the site, was handled via the respective legal teams of TUI and the families.


SAMSA, for their part, claiming that they were not in the business of salvage, would refuse to retrieve the hull’s remains. On 16 February 2016, however, they would release Marine Notice No. 11—in which they would announce that due to their own salvage operation of another sunken vessel off the coast of Cape Town, a skipper had pleaded guilty to culpable homicide “after unlawfully and negligently causing the death of two passengers”.


So SAMSA did perform salvage operations when it suited them. Who, the families still wanted to know, had acted “unlawfully and negligently” in the deaths of Anthony Murray, Reginald Robertson and Jaryd Payne? South Africa’s maritime regulator has thus far failed to provide a complete answer to either the families or to Daily Maverick—like the TUI Group, the regulator declined or ignored the Daily Maverick’s requests for an interview. On 8 July 2016, with this article on the verge of publication, SAMSA admitted to the local press that it had launched a forensic investigation into "unauthorised" bonus payments to senior executives. Commander Mokhele, it turned out, had stepped down as CEO in June 2016 amid allegations of financial mismanagement.


That said, in June 2015, SAMSA had published a safety regulations circular with an addendum under the header, “Additional Safety Equipment Supplied by TUI Marine”. Henceforth, although the GPS receiver and electronic navigation equipment would still need to be provided by the skipper, TUI would supply two satellite phones and two EPIRBs per vessel—a 100 percent rise in each case.


This has certainly meant something to the families—it meant that the lives, or rather the deaths, of their loved ones had resulted in a vast corporate entity, the world’s leading tourism and leisure conglomerate, taking at least some responsibility for the safety of its employees. But it didn’t help mothers and brothers and sisters-in-law sleep at night. “It really tortures me thinking that he would have been so scared,” said Lisa Payne of her son, Jaryd. Her words evoked the fear of a rookie sailor in the Southern Ocean in the aftermath of a devastating  cyclone—a young man who must have known, in his final minutes, that nobody was coming to save him.