On the 3rd of September 2020, a fire broke out on board VLCC New Diamond, approximately 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point, east of Sri Lankan seas.. The fire was said to have been caused due to a boiler explosion in the main engine room..
Initial reports by salvage experts said there is no sign of a leak in the Panama flagged supertanker, which was carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude oil, but some of the ship’s 1,700 tonnes of fuel oil has leaked into the Indian Ocean creating an oil slick of around 2 kms long and 30 m wide..
As per the Sri Lankan Navy, the VLCC owned by Porto Emporios Shipping Inc and managed by Greek ship owner, New Shipping Limited, is still in Sri Lankan waters while its appointed salvors SMIT Singapore, were looking at ways to get the 270,000 tonnes of crude oil on the ship its customer, Indian Oil Corp in Paradip, India..
The 270,000-tonne cargo of crude oil was said to have been unaffected by the fire..
The ship’s crew and Captain were evacuated after the ship issued a distress signal and were initially quarantined under the supervision of the Sri Lankan Navy..
While the Indian Coast Guard in conjunction with the ship’s captain and the salvage team had previously taken preventive actions to avoid reignition and correct the vessel’s trim, they also advised that “The transfer of cargo in situ is not possible as no machinery is operational on-board. The salvage team post inspection of the casualty ship, are taking required preventive steps to ensure the integrity, cargo safety as well as to plan the next course of action“..
Sri Lanka’s environmental authorities fear a marine disaster if the tanker is allowed to transfer its oil to another ship in the country’s waters..
Agence France-Presse is reporting that Sri Lanka has meanwhile asked the owners of the New Diamond to tow the vessel which is currently some 70 nautical miles east off the Sri Lankan coastal town of Batticaloa, beyond its exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from its coast..
Captain to be held responsible and facing prosecution
The office of Sri Lanka’s Attorney General is reportedly seeking compensation of around USD1.9 million from the owners of the vessel for services and assistance provided to the ship with indications that more bills will follow..
The Attorney General’s office has also indicated that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the Captain of the vessel under the country’s marine pollution act as well as the penal code for criminal negligence and pollution charges..
This announcement has seemingly raised concerns in shipping circles about the number of Captains who have recently been held personally responsible for maritime disasters..
Should the Captain be responsible for ANYTHING that goes wrong on board a ship :
- whether it is navigational issues like the Wakashio ;
- cargo handling/stowage issues like the APL England ;
- cargo acceptance issues on board container ships where there is no visibility of the cargo ;
- in the case of probable technical issues like the New Diamond..??
Share your opinion below and let us watch this space keenly..