Friday, October 2, 2009

India Pays For Lack Of Freight Vessel Regulation

Flagrant Safety Breaches Cost the Country Dear
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – The country is again counting the cost of slack regulation when it comes to salvage operations for wrecked vessels. Despite legislation to prevent freighters above 25 years old being hired by Indian companies this is claused to exclude foreign operators who charter such ships.

Safety standards suffer in a downturn (see previous article) and China’s thirst for raw materials can cause tragedy as in the recent case of the MV Black Rose. The vessel sank off Orissa last month with 23, 847 tonnes of iron ore fines, 924 tonnes of furnace oil, 50 tonnes of diesel and 40 tonnes of grease aboard.

Wildlife in the Bay of Bengal is significantly threatened by the leaking bulk carrier as work continues to minimise the effects of the spillage. Next week the rare Olive Ridley turtles are due to arrive at Agarnasi Island of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary where they breed. The area is under threat, not only from the pollution, but because the bulk of the wreck causes localised current changes affecting the small beach area.

But what lies behind this tragedy? Had the Rose sunk in its territorial waters the responsibility for the clean up would lie squarely with the vessels insurers. But the Mongolian flagged Black Rose was uninsured; she allegedly carried forged papers which were for a different vessel, which is also the property of her owners Pacmar Shipping Pte Ltd.

When India’s rules to govern such tragedies were drafted they were frozen out by the lobbying power of a group of mutual indemnity insurers the IGP & I which traditionally supply cover for precisely this type of incident. The group members, all based out of India, work together indemnifying each other against loss.

So India is left to pick up the bill, the port authorities at Paradip are reportedly clearing the oil at their own expense with a view to suing the vessels owners who, despite the dangers of the monsoon season, chose to transport wet iron ore, a notoriously dangerous cargo, in the name of profit.