05 August 2011

Indian tender to buy stranded ship for scrap:

Operators move equipment along a line to the stricken tanker, MT Phoenix, from the rocks at Christmas Bay at Sheffield Beach, north of Durban
South African Maritime Safety Authority granted a seizure and sale order allowing the authority to sell the MT Phoenix oil tanker

THE high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday granted the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) a seizure and sale order allowing the authority to sell the MT Phoenix oil tanker that ran aground north of Durban last month.

With more than 400000l of fuel having been removed, the tanker is not expected to present an environmental hazard. But taxpayers may face a big salvage bill as the owners of the vessel have abandoned it.

Samsa has accepted a tender from Amandla Icon, an Indian scrap company, to buy the vessel for scrap, the authority’s southern region manager Nigel Campbell said yesterday. "Amandla Icon’s bid of $422000 was the best bid and they also have a tug standing by in Durban to get it away," he said. The money will be used to cover the costs of fuel removal and refloating the vessel before it can be towed out of South African territorial waters.

Capt Campbell said the vessel had accrued a bill of about R8m so far.

Since Monday Samsa has on three occasions failed to refloat the MT Phoenix, aground on rocks off Sheffield Beach, which is in a residential area.

Specialists will try to move the MT Phoenix again at the end of the month when the higher spring tides return, Capt Campbell said.

"On Monday we had some swell, so it was a bit bumpy, but we were able to turn her 45 degrees before the anchor chain snapped," he said.

There was very little swell on Tuesday and none on Wednesday.

Recovery crews pumped water into the MT Phoenix yesterday to try to weigh it down and keep it stable to prevent the ship from breaking up.

If the hull breaks, Amandla Icon will no longer buy the vessel for scrapping and Samsa would be faced with the "exceptionally expensive" prospect of having to cut the hull up in the water.

A worst-case scenario cost of as much as $50m has been suggested by Malcolm Hartwell, a master mariner and director in admiralty and shipping at legal firm Norton Rose.

SMIT Salvage, an international salvage specialist, has been contracted to explore options for dealing with the vessel, Capt Campbell said.

A meeting will be held next week to decide how best to refloat the vessel, failing which alternatives such as cutting the vessel up and towing pieces into the sea may be considered. Recreational divers have suggested sinking the vessel off the coast to provide a reef for diving.

Samsa has still not been able to contact the owners of the ship.

Source: Business Day. By Nicky Smith (smithn@bdfm.co.za). 5 August 2011

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