El Maritime Maisie sigue en llamas

Los últimos informes del LLoyds List dicen que el quimiquero Maritime Maise todavía sigue en llamas y sin puerto de refugio. El 29 de diciembre fue abordado en las proximidades de Busan por el cochero Gravity Highway. Los 91 tripulantes, 64 eran del cochero que estaba haciendo pruebas de mar, fueron evacuados por los servicios de rescate coreanos sanos y salvos.

Desde entonces, el quimiquero ha ido derivando hasta acabar en aguas de Japón y a pesar de todo el rollo de los puertos de refugio, nadie lo quiere meter en esa situación en su casa. Desgraciadamente para algunos, el muy tozudo no se hunde y tras medio mes, la cosa empieza a cantar un poco.

El Maritime Maisie llevaba cerca de 30000 toneladas de Acrilonitrilo, paraxileno y estireno como carga y unas 640 toneladas de bunker.

Maritime Maisie

Maritime Maisie

Artícuclo en el LLoyd List

MARITIME Maisie, a 44,404 dwt chemical tanker that caught fire following a collision with a car carrier on sea trials off Busan in South Korea on December 29, is still burning and has since drifted into Japanese waters.

Salvors, unable to put out the fire, have been towing the Hong Kong-flagged vessel to locations around the island of Tsushima while, so far, the Japanese coast guard has denied requests from the ship’s operator for a port of refuge, a measure recommended by the salvors to extinguish the fire.

The ambiguous response to the casualty, now entering its 15th day, has underscored the problem of non-co-operation with International Maritime Organization resolutions on granting port of refuge for ships in distress.

It also resonates with the sinking of Prestige, the 81,589 dwt single-hulled oil tanker that sank off the coast of Galicia, Spain, in 2002 after the Spanish government refused port of refuge. It spilled about 80% of its 77,000-tonne oil cargo in the sinking.

MSI Ship Management and owner IMC subsidiary Aurora Shipping, both based in Singapore, are facing the possibility that the structural integrity of the vessel will be compromised by the continuous fire and that the tanker could collapse.

«The salvors, with the help of international experts, are doing everything in their power to put the fire out and prevent damage to the environment,» a spokesman for MSI Ship Management told Lloyd’s List.

The quandary that the owner and shipmanager face highlights the difficulty of obtaining compliance with IMO resolutions, even a when textbook case emerges.

«The longer the wait, the great the risk of the vessel deteriorating and thereby becoming a greater problem,» said Tim Wilkins, Intertanko regional manager Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore.

«This should be a straightforward case. It’s clear in our minds from what we can tell about the case that things might have been different if a place of refuge was granted earlier.»

He added: «This incident highlights the industry’s concern surrounding coastal states’ continued reluctance to admit ships into places of refuge.»

Ten years ago, partly in response to the Prestige casualty, the IMO hammered out Resolution A 949 (23), establishing guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need assistance.

In the IMO’s words, the resolution addressed: «What to do when a ship finds itself in serious difficulty or in need of assistance without, however, presenting a risk to safety of life of persons involved. Should the ship be brought into shelter near the coast or into a port or, conversely, should it be taken out to sea?»

In the case of Maritime Maisie , the answer so far from Japan and South Korea, both of which took part in crafting the resolution and agreed to voluntary compliance, seems to be at least implicitly no.

On January 7, MSI Ship Management, through Nippon Salvage, formally applied to Number 7 Regional Coast Guard headquarters for port of refuge. Up until now, the Japanese government has not responded.

The Japan Coast Guard had not responded to repeated queries at press time.

A spokesman for Nippon Salvage declined to comment on the basis that the unfolding situation was «too sensitive» and that giving information would violate loyalty to the owner.

Requests for port of refuge were made to the South Korean government via Intertanko on behalf of the owner.

South Korean officials said they might consider allowing the ship to secure a port of refuge if the fire was extinguished. That point was reiterated at a press conference by maritime authorities on January 12.

The Hong Kong Marine Department, Mardep, which reportedly also interceded with the Japanese and South Korean governments on the part of the ship manager, had not responded to queries at press time.

Maritime Maisie left Busan on the morning of December 29 bound for Ningbo in China and laden with 29,337 tonnes of acrylonitrile, paraxylene and styrene and 640 tonnes of bunker fuel.

The collision with Gravity Highway, which was on sea trials from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, happened about nine miles from the port and left the chemical tanker with an 8 m puncture.

The fire started due to spillage from a tank containing acrylonitrile as a result of the impact.

The Korea Coast Guard rescued all 91 passengers and crew from both ships – 27 crew on Maritime Maisie and 64 from the car carrier.

But that was only the beginning of Maisie’s eccentric and unintended burning voyage.

Initial press reports said the fire was extinguished, but it either was never put out or it reignited.

Following the evacuation of the crew, strong sea currents and rough seas with waves up to 6 m pushed Maisie into Japanese waters.

MSI then engaged Nippon Salvage, which was part of the team that battled to salvage MOL Comfort when it split in two in the Indian Ocean last year.

It also appointed marine chemical experts Nofa & Marsac International, from the US, firefighters from Falck Nutec in the Netherlands and a naval architect from TSM in London to assist in the operation.

According to MSI, these experts and the salvage company agreed that the best course of action would be to seek a port of refuge, the nearest point being Tsushima Island in the Korean Strait, part of Nagasaki province in Japan.

With no answer from the Japanese government forthcoming, and refusals to verbal requests to the Japan Coast Guard, the ship has been in limbo, towed by a single tug north and south of Tsushima Island in search of calmer seas.

The location of the vessel on Monday was southwest of Tsushima Island, about halfway between Tsushima and Jeju Island in South Korea.

«When ships are not granted refuge, the potential for a serious incident is frequently increased,» said Intertanko’s Mr Wilkins.

«The emergency transfer of cargo and other measures to aid the stricken vessel may be similarly hindered with a consequent increased threat to the environment.»

Intertanko emphasises the importance for coastal states to develop plans for places of refuge, urging governments to nominate appropriate waters, ports or anchorages.

It says the move «is not without without difficulty, but its overwhelming advantage is that it could make the difference between a major spill and no spill at all».

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