TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP - News & Announcements

TSAVLIRIS salves "TASMAN SPIRIT" oil cargo - 2003 Sep 30

In an operation spanning several difficult weeks this summer, the TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP successfully salved the majority of the cargo carried by the aframax tanker "TASMAN SPIRIT", which ran aground in the channel outside the port of Karachi on July 27.


The 87,580 dwt tanker was estimated to have been laden with about 67,000 tonnes of crude oil for the Pakistan Refinery and cargo reportedly began leaking from ruptured tanks as soon as the vessel stranded on Manora Island.


A massive initial response involving Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority and the Pakistani navy failed to shift the tanker. The vessel sank a metre further into the mud and traffic officials said oil was being swept closer to the navigational channel with each tide. It is estimated that up to 20,000 tonnes of cargo were lost before LOF was signed and TSAVLIRIS arrived on the scene.


Karachi was thus facing a major maritime emergency and a potentially huge oil spill when TSAVLIRIS was contracted as salvors under a Lloyds Open Form on July 30. Immediately, the group mobilized a salvage team and chartered in a tug from AlFujairah to speed to the site of the casualty with essential salvage gear. At the same time, the TSAVLIRIS operated salvage tug SB-408 was dispatched from Colombo and a cargo plane was sent to Karachi carrying 40 tonnes of salvage equipment from Rotterdam and the TSAVLIRIS warehouse in Athens.


Equipment that was quickly transported to the location of the accident included all the essential pumping, preservation and anti pollution gear likely to be demanded in such an emergency, as well as some highly specialized equipment that few salvors have as part of their inventory. For example, TSAVLIRIS immediately sent to Karachi a pumping system with almost a mile of hoses for transferring cargo at distance, that had been used three years earlier for the removal of fuel oil from the wreck of the "ERIKA".


During the week after the grounding, the stranded tanker was subject to being directly pounded by the southwest monsoon weather and sank further into the mud, giving rise to anxiety among local officials that the ship could break up. Despite this, in periods of calmer weather, TSAVLIRIS deployed anti pollution precautions and commenced the operation to discharge the cargo. Over several days, about 20,000 tonnes of crude oil were discharged into the chartered-in lightering tanker Fair Jolly, which transferred the cargo to a larger tanker, the "ENDEAVOUR II", to be later taken to the refinery.


Unfortunately, the worst fears of onlookers came true on August 13 when increased stress on the hull caused the "TASMAN SPIRIT" to split in two around Frame 75, creating a much worse pollution problem. Since the forward and aft sections of the tanker were now several metres apart and misaligned, it also posed new headaches for the lighterage operation, as cargo could no longer be transferred internally from the aft tanks to the fore part. A rapid deterioration in the condition of the casualty after August 22 and the loss of the tanker "FAIR JOLLY" which reported a hole in its hull further slowed progress in lightering the cargo.


TSAVLIRIS chartered in another small tanker, the "SEA ANGEL", as a replacement for the "FAIR JOLLY" and by the beginning of September the bulk of the remaining cargo on board the "TASMAN SPIRIT" had been discharged, while cargo spaces and slops tanks that were drained were inerted. Since even small support vessels could not berth alongside the aft section of the tanker, the situation called for special equipment and the cargo from these tanks was pumped through the floating "ERIKA" hoses a distance of about 120 metres to the "SEA ANGEL".


Because of the vessel's list and excessive trim, this left a small quantity of oil in the tanks that could not be drained with conventional pumps. A small hydraulic pump was then used to skim the tanks in both sections of the broken tanker and when the last of the cargo was transferred, TSAVLIRIS set about removing all other pollutants from the wreck, including bunkers, lubricants, chemicals, paints and batteries.


In spite of the fact that the "TASMAN SPIRIT" accident represented Pakistan's worst marine oil spill, the salvage of the cargo and the handling of an unstable casualty represented a great success and minimized the amount of oil that polluted the sea and coast. Altogether, Tsavliris recovered approximately 36,500 tonnes of crude oil that was transferred to the "ENDEAVOUR II", out of the 47,000 tonnes of cargo that were still on the ship when the salvage team arrived.


"There is no doubt that this was a successful salvage operation carried out under the most difficult circumstances," said TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP. "If we had not mobilized so quickly or if we had not had the right equipment and people on the spot, no doubt the spill could have been much worse. From the first moment to the completion of the operation we worked very closely with the owners, the P&I club and the local authorities. Every step that was taken was very thoroughly planned and explained in full to the authorities, who approved each phase."


Said TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP, "Verbally the authorities were very complimentary about our work throughout the operation".


"Concerns"about treatment of salvage personnel and equipment.


However, at the end of the operation TSAVLIRIS was surprised to find that its personnel and equipment were being informally detained by the authorities and prevented from leaving Pakistan. "Unfortunately, in the highly-charged political atmosphere following this incident, there was a reaction against almost everyone associated with the ship and the clean-up operation and what was surprising was that this was extended to the salvors, even though our role was purely positive," explained the Group.


By end-September most of TSAVLIRIS' eight man salvage team on site and some of its equipment had been allowed to leave, but salvage master and some salvage assets were still facing an exit ban, despite the absence of any court order to this effect. TSAVLIRIS believes this is totally unjustified. "One of the sad things is that in future, if another incident of this type occurs in the country, there must be concern that salvors and others may be wary of going to Pakistan,"said the Group.


"We have received moral and other support from the Hellenic Marine Environment Association, the Cyprus Marine Environment Association, the International Salvage Union, the Greek embassy, other European diplomatic missions and others to try to solve this situation," they added.


"It was an extremely challenging salvage operation, full of interruptions from very bad weather conditions and problems due to shortages of facilities and equipment locally," said the Group. "In such circumstances, the authorities need to respect the role of salvors and understand our responsibilities and liabilities. It is disappointing after a job well done, which has been acknowledged as such by the authorities, that a salvor is then caught up in the general blame game when he is at no fault whatsoever."