Thursday, June 27, 2013

Aft Part of Container Vessel Finally Sinks Beneath the Waves Leaving Problem for Shipping Insurers

MOL Ship Sinking by Instalments
Shipping News Feature

INDIAN OCEAN – A full ten days after she split in two whilst in transit the aft part of the container vessel MOL Comfort finally sank today leaving shipping insurers with a major headache. Besides the fact that a tally of boxes lost will still need to be made, the rear of the ship contained tanks topped up with 1,500 tonnes of fuel oil.

Last reports have the stern going down in the open sea near 14’26”N 66’26”E where the depth of water exceeds 4 kilometres and the fact that much of the freight would have been blown out of the hull as she sunk means any wreckage on the sea bed is likely to be strewn over a wide area.

Many of the containers immediately floated away and others will doubtless pop up again but the dangers presented by any of the 1,700 or so boxes loaded in the after part of the ship cannot be underestimated. The two halves of the vessel, the fore part is still afloat and now under tow toward the Arabian Gulf, drifted apart very quickly in the poor weather conditions demonstrating how wreckage is likely to dissipate over a very wide area, very quickly.

Sunken containers often retain enough buoyancy to drift just below the surface, invisible to both look outs and radar, and preset a very real hazard to shipping, sometimes for months on end, hundreds of miles from where they were originally lost.

Mitsui OSK Line (MOL) is keeping the Indian authorities informed as things develop and has boats patrolling the area where the stern foundered to watch for signs of a major oil leak from the hull. Meanwhile the company is arranging a full survey of the MOL Comfort’s six sister ships whilst commencing an investigation of the causes of the incident together with the shipbuilder, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The crews of the other MOL craft built to the same design as the five year old Comfort, the Creation, Charisma, Celebration, Courage, Competence and Commitment, already inspected their own vessels and actions have been taken to reduce stress on the hulls of each as an interim measure. The MOL and shipyard inspection of the six remaining ships will also involve the classification society Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK).