Friday, August 14, 2009

Tanker prevented from leaving on final voyage

Government acts to stop vessel leaving port for dismantling
Shipping News Feature

UK, SOUTHAMPTON - The 50,000 ton Margaret Hill was issued the first ever stop notice by the UK Environment Agency yesterday after suspicions were raised as to her destination.

Although officially bound for Portland, Dorset, information received by officials, said to be from the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, raised doubts as to her immediate future.

NGO Platform on Shipbreaking is a coalition of environmental interest, labour and human rights groups who monitor the illegal scrapping of First World vessels in Third World countries and petitions for their safe and environmentally sound disposal.

The Margaret Hill was originally the LNG Challenger becoming, after several name changes, the Hoegh Galleon. She is a steel hulled liquid natural gas tanker. She was last sold for $5 million but as scrap her worth could well jump to well over $17 million. The reason for this is because she contains large amounts of nickel and other high value metals plus an estimated 500 plus tonnes of bunker oil. She is also believed to contain a cocktail of noxious substances, including tonnes of asbestos.

This is the first time the UK Governments Environment Agency has prevented a ships departure using new legislation for vessels leaving the UK for dismantling. Owners of such ships are required to apply for an export notice from the Government demonstrating they are for destruction within the EU or an OECD country, this excludes countries which traditionally break such ships such as India and Bangladesh. Officials at any other destination country must confirm that they are prepared to accept the vessel.

A spokesperson for NGO Platform on Shipbreaking said “They (the authorities) must hold the ship, ascertain the destination and survey it to assess the amounts of asbestos, PCBs and other hazardous substances it is likely to contain. According to European and UK law, all hazardous materials must be removed from the ship before it can be allowed to be exported to South Asia.”

A notice was issued to the Port of Southampton Head of Operations which meant no pilot could be supplied to guide her from her moorings effectively bottling her within the port until the matter is resolved.

The vessels current owners, the Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund whose senior advisors count Daniel H Mudd, former CEO of Fanny Mae, and John Edwards, an ex candidate for US Vice President, had no comment on the matter.

Ship scrappage is big business in Asian countries. In Bangladeshi yards alone it provides work for 25,000 people plus numerous indirect jobs. The scrap steel supplies up to 80% of the countries requirements and feeds the construction industry there.