Regarding pollution prevention, US have specific requirements in comparison with the rest of the world, such as the activation of the ‘Vessel’s Response Plan’ which include salvage prearranged services. The most important difference is the responsive time at the event of an incident. Under the OPA 90 regulation, all the required preparedness is existing before the incident. There is a great need for extensive drills and exercises. Salvors are responsible to identify the resources that are prepositioned; after the incident salvors only need to mobilize assets and avoid prolonged negotiation to conclude a contract and progress the emergency response.
It is interesting to look into two different cases which illustrate the role of salvage response in the event of two different grounding incidents. In the first one, a bulk carrier was grounded near Pilotown in Mississippi. The vessel was loaded with a cargo of 67,542 tonnes of Yellow Corn destined for Israel and was substantially out of draught, so much so that refloating by tug power alone was impossible. The owners activated a Vessel Response Plan after 24 hours.
The salvage master boarded the vessel only after the river pilots with the assistance of tugs made many attempts to refloat the vessel. The initial attempts to refloat the vessel were unsuccessful considering that the Mississippi river is driven by currents which deter the refloating operations. When a hydrographic survey was performed, it was noted that the vessel was in a hard aground position to refloat sideways and the only way to move the vessel out of the grounding area was to direct her forward.
If you are not successful with the refloat operation with the assistance of tugs, the next step is lightering. There was significant pressure from the local authorities to undertake lightening operations with the USCG Sector New Orleans persistently, right up to the day of refloating, seeking the engagement of lightering assets. In this case, many factors were against us, having significant weather deterioration – a hurricane was hitting the area - and locating lightering assets was impossible as most were seeking shelter from the hurricane.
Therefore, the only solution improvised was dredging. During full refloating operations 7 tugs and a hopper dredge were employed to refloat the vessel. The refloating plan entailed the use of a hopper dredge assisting for 24-48 hrs. The vessel finally refloated almost a mile away from the position of grounding.
In the second incident, a bulk carrier in Parana River, Argentina loaded with cargo of soya beans run aground and the response was imminent. Lightering was inevitable and a challenging operation considering the several burdens imposed by local regulations in the area. The flag restrictions and the issue of a flag waiver was one. The local availability of tonnage under Argentinian flag offered was a container vessel; of course, it was impossible to conduct the lightering of a Kamsarmax bulkcarrier to a container. Also, due to the local authority attendance requirements, we had too many personnel involved resulting in higher costs. Specifically, we had to seek accommodation on both vessels, for at least four pilots, four stevedores, three Coast Guard officers, two local salvage master, two mooring masters and two custom officers on top of the salvage team performing the response!
For refloating operations, the following steps are recommended during the initial stages:
- Appoint a protective agent
- Activate a salvage company
- Perform on-site assessment
- Issue a refloating plan
- Notify OSRO and
- Execute the refloating plan
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Elias Psyllos,Vice President, Commercial and Risk Management, T&T Salvage
Elias Psyllos is the Vice President of the Commercial and Risk Management Department of T&T Salvage based in Houston Texas. He is responsible for commercial, legal, and technical support to daily global company operations. He supports business development and client relationship management activities. He also oversees internal insurance and risk management matters to include policy management and claims reporting and acts as Project Manager on company operations. Prior experience includes 15 years as a Risk Manager for a London-Greek Shipowning Group. He was overall responsible for the Group’s Marine Insurance and claims. For 4 years he served as a member of the Group’s Marine Operations Team, actively involved in the management of Oil Tanker and Bulk Carrier fleets.