Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Flag of Convenience Bulk Carrier Founders Weeks after Container Ship Sinking

No Casualties Again Despite Rough Weather
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – JAPAN – PHILIPPINES – In an accident with elements reminiscent both of the recent MOL Comfort incident, and the Swanland disaster, Panamanian flagged bulk carrier, mv Smart, split in two August 19, after running aground off Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Richards Bay volunteers were activated by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to assist three of the company’s own tug boats which were attending the vessel. As with the Swanland case, the incident is sure to engender more discussion regarding the standards employed when flags of convenience are involved.

The Smart grounded on a sand bank in shallows adjacent to the Port exit channel, where the tug boats were attempting to pull her free of the sand bank after she ran aground in swells of up to ten metres while exiting Port to go to sea. At just after 16:00 local time, the structural integrity of the vessel was compromised and the Captain ordered his ship to be abandoned. According to the NSRI, all 23 of the ship’s crew were hoisted into a rescue helicopter in relays and brought safely ashore where paramedics and NSRI personnel received them.

Formerly named Rubin Ace, the 151,279 dwt vessel was laden with 147,650 tonnes of coal when she ran aground. She sustained damage to several cargo hatches resulting in the release of some of her cargo. A monitoring plan is currently being prepared, by the Department of Environmental Affairs, to investigate the potential impact of coal and coal dust pollution on the surrounding marine environment.

The Department, working closely with the local authorities, has put in place steps to respond as quickly as possible to any oil spills, but, according to a spokesperson for the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), there is ‘no threat of a spill’. The mv Smart had approximately 1,600 tonnes of fuel and approximately 120 tonnes of diesel on board when she ran aground.

Meanwhile at Mitsui OSK (MOL) owner of the MOL Comfort, has released details of the works being undertaken by Lloyd’s Register (LR), which MOL appointed as technical consultant to investigate the sinking. Hull reinforcement has already been as a preventative measure to three of the Comfort’s six class sisters, MOL Celebration, MOL Courage, and MOL Creation, all of which have now returned to service on the Asia-North Europe route.

MOL Charisma and MOL Competence among three remaining three sister vessels are already at the dockyards of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and their hull reinforcement will be completed by the end of September to beginning of October. The work for MOL Commitment which was newly delivered this June will be completed by February 2014. The works being undertaken means each of the vessels has now had structural reinforcement doubling the standard required by the original classification society, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK), Japan’s classification society, which conforms to the safety standards of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS).

Following the rescue of its seafarers without serious harm from the MOL Comfort incident the company was able to partially repay the debt last week when the MOL managed LNG carrier Energy Advance found and rescued one fisherman from a small fishing boat that had been drifting about 300 km east of Mindanao Island. The carrier’s crew was able to turn the man, apparently unharmed, to the Philippine Port Authority the following day.