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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
25 December 2003 – Tasman Spirit (Malta)
Chem tanker Sea Angel, owned by Global Tradeways Ltd of United Arab Emirates which had been granted permission by Sindh High Court (SHC) earlier this month to leave Pakistan could not sail off from Karachi Port, as the port authority has not issued “No Demand Certificate (NDC)” to the vessel to date, according to Aga Faquir Mohammad & Co, the counsel of applicant. As a result, they have appealed to Sindh High Court (SHC) for initiating contempt proceedings against Chairman Vice-Admiral Ahmed Hayat and Assistant Chief Accountant Fatehuddin of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) for wilfully violating the court’s orders. The court, on 5 December, had directed the Karachi Port Trust to issue a “no demand certificate” to the Sea Angel, on furnishing by its owners M/s Global Tradeways Ltd a bank guarantee to the sum of Rs one million to the Naazir of the SHC. The court had further ordered the defendant KPT to issue the said certificate immediately after the placing of the bank guarantee. Later, the KPT moved an application on which the court passed an order on 9 December, suspending operation of its earlier order for seven working days to enable the KPT file an appeal against this order. The order was suspended on the condition that if the appeal of the KPT failed it would pay the plaintiff the cost of such detention. The KPT, however, chose not to file an appeal and the plaintiff submitted Rs one million bank guarantee with the Naazir of the SHC, but the KPT did not issue “no dues certificate (NDC)” to the plaintiff. The plaintiff approached the Assistant Chief Account Officer of KPT, Fatehuddin, who is authorised to issue the NDC for issuance of the same, but he stated that he was only bound to follow the orders of Vice-Admiral Ahmed Hayat, Chairman of the Karachi Port Trust, and he had ordered him not to issue the NDC to any of the vessel connected with the salvage operations of the crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit. In the circumstances, the plaintiff’s counsel sent legal notice to these two contemnors on 20 December 2003, and in its reply, faxed to the counsel, the contemnors stated that the vessel was detained to verify and check any other outstanding port dues and charges against her. It was stated in the fax message that the NDC could only be issued after verifying that there was no other demand against the vessel. “This pertinent to note that the bank guarantee to the extent of Rs 1million was deposited with the Naazir of the High Court for the purpose that if any amount towards port dues and charges is outstanding towards the vessel Sea Angel, the same would be paid by the plaintiff or in case the port dues, if any, is not paid the same can be collected by en-cashing the bank guarantee, which is with the Naazir of this court”, says the contempt application. The counsel has prayed the court to initiate contempt proceedings against these two alleged contemnors, as they had flouted the court’s directions regarding issuance of the NDC to the Sea Angel. The case is fixed for orders on 26 December.
27 December 2003 –Karachi Port Trust (KPT) said this afternoon that two lighterage vessels, chem tank Sea Angel and chemical/oil carrier Fair Jolly and two tugs, Umka and SB-408, which took part in the siphoning out of crude oil and salvage operation respectively of grounded crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit and later were detained owing to litigation, finally sailed from port yesterday afternoon after issuance of clearance from the port authorities. However, another vessel, crude oil tanker Endeavor II will remain under arrest due to court orders, the sources added.
28 December 2003 –Karachi Port Trust (KPT) said today that salvage tug Champion Z had arrived at port on behalf of Smit Salvage BV to facilitate removal of wreckage of crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit from the mouth of harbour channel. The operation is expected to start soon.
30 December 2003 –Andros Maritime Company of Greece has today secured a release order from Sindh High Court (SHC) for crude oil tanker Endeavor II, according to defendant counsel. The honourable Justice Mr Ata Ur-Rehman of SHC while hearing admiralty case No. 20 has accepted the defendant plea that Tasman Spirit flew Maltese flag and was duly registered in Malta, the owners of the said vessel being Assimina Maritime Limited of Valletta, and whereas Endeavor II flies Greek flag and is duly registered at the port of Piraeus, the owners being Andros Maritime Company of Piraeus and it should not be involved in Tasman Spirit litigation. Endeavor II will not leave port soon as it is facing other litigation filed by KPT in local court.
6 January 2004 –Senior Vice-President of the American Club, Mike Mitchell, said that the American Club had protested to the highest levels of the Pakistani government about the detention of the crew members of oil tanker Tasman Spirit, and would continue to do so. The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) had taken into custody the six-member crew of Tasman Spirit, which caused the worst marine pollution in the history of the country after it ran aground at the mouth of the harbour channel on 27 July. As a result, KPT lodged a criminal case against the master and crew of the ship at the dock police station after they were arrested. The master and crew were granted bail by the judicial magistrate – VI Karachi – on 4 October 2003. Their passports were, however, retained by the court binding them not to leave the country until the case is over.
18 January 2004 – A representative of the Greek Ministry of Transport and Communications who visited Pakistan last month and met the Karachi Port Trust chairman and senior government officials in Islamabad failed to convince them to release seven crew members and the salvage master of the crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit. Sources in the KPT and the Ministry of Communications said that Pakistani officials in their meetings with George Pounpolos, representative of the Greek government, told the Greek official that the owners of the tanker were creating hurdles to the investigations of the causes of the grounding and the resultant oil spill after the vessel broke in two on 14 August. It was made clear to Mr Pounpolos that the Government of Pakistan would continue to pursue its case against the crew and the salvage master, as they were involved in sending the important record books of the vessel, including its log and classification books, out of the country, the sources said. Quoting officials of the Ministry of Communications, the sources said the Government of Pakistan believed it had a strong case both on civil and criminal fronts to prove that owners of the vessel committed criminal negligence. First, by selecting a vessel that was not seaworthy, second, by ignoring the instruction of the KPT tug pilot, and third, by denying the KPT’s verbal offers to begin lighterage of the vessel. The documents made available to this correspondent showed that a salvage agreement was entered into between vessel owners Polembros Shipping Limited, Assimina Maritime Limited and salvors Tsavliris Russ on 30 July, only three days after the grounding of the vessel. The salvors, however, failed to show “due agility” despite daily warnings from the deputy conservator of the KPT that delay in any salvage operation might cause a catastrophe. The documents also showed that from 5 August the KPT sent two to three messages daily to the owners of the ship and the salvors reminding them of the gravity of the situation and demanding prompt action with extreme care. The salvors, however, did little and that too with carelessness.
22 January 2004 –The Pakistani government has told Greek authorities it will release the five Greek crew members of crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit if it receives adequate guarantees from the Greek government, the shipping firm Polembros and the insurance firm P&I Club that the sailors will return to Karachi if required to stand trial, the Athens News Agency quoted sources as saying yesterday. “We are ready to give the necessary guarantees”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis commented. Meanwhile, the Union of Greek Shipowners warned Pakistan that thousands of Pakistani jobs could be at risk unless the sailors are released.
23 January 2004 –According to port and shipping industry sources, the legal counsel for the owners of grounded crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit and The American Club is expected to arrive in Pakistan this week to negotiate all potential claimants in the country on the establishment of a framework, based on the 1992 CLC Convention, leading to swift compensation against demonstrated claims. It may be mentioned here that The American Club, a protection and indemnity insurer to Tasman Spirit, had offered this solution in October last and made a reminder two months ago, but the government did not show any interest.
The 1992 CLC Convention provides for a maximum of $42.5 million in compensation while the claims made by the Karachi Port Trust and the Defence Housing Authority go in excess to $7 billion.
23 January 2004 –Karachi Port Trust (KPT) said today that a salvage team of SMIT Salvage BV has started the removal operation of the wreckage of crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit from the mouth of the harbour channel. If the weather remains favourable for work it is estimated it would be completed by 1 March, otherwise work will stretch to 1 April. The team are presently trying to remove the remaining oil residues from the grounded vessel and later start cutting the forward section. Three tugs, a working barge and two-vessels having crane and residential facilities are helping the salvage-team respectively.
26 January 2004 –The foreign experts hired by the American P&I Club said this afternoon that the wrecks of crude oil tanker Tasman Spirit will hopefully be removed from the mouth of the harbour channel of Karachi Port before the start of the monsoon season. The foreign teams with the support of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and other local environmental monitoring agencies have claimed to complete dismantling work of grounded vessel by late March for shifting its pieces to a nearby ship breaking yard in Balochistan. Nick Sloane, Project Manager of specialized salvage firm SMIT Salvage BV, has said that work has already started with the technical cooperation of two Karachi based firms-Indus Divers and New (Pvt) Ltd through three phases. The operation is being done with the help of two tugs Smit Lloyd 28 and Smit Luzon. Heavy crane equipped vessel Smit Cyclone having capacity of 1,000 tons, barge Anambas, logistic facility vessel Zakher Moon and another heavy crane having capacity of 1,600 tons would arrive by the last week of February to perform final lifting of rear section. Under phase one a numbers of holes in the bottom of the front part of the grounded vessel will be sealed and later leftover oil-scum residue about 1,100 tonnes, pumped out respectively. The oil will be offloaded into still detained crude oil tanker Endeavour II. Phases two and three will comprise of re-floating of front and rear portion and survey of local ship breaking yard to ascertain facilities available for scraping of the vessel. He declined to divulge the total cost of the operation and said the American Club would be the right authority to give this figure but said presently it is being done on a daily cost bases. The total tonnage of the vessel is about 15,000 tons and there is gap of 11 metres in both parts. The intensity of vessel penetrated into the sea bottom in being assessed. A Smit spokesman rule out any future possibility of oil leakage as all precautions have been taken into account in the whole operation.
20 January 2004 – Island Explorer
Lawyers of the fishing communities affected by the recent oil spill in the Apo Menor Reef today threatened to file criminal cases against the owner of the vessel which crashed onto the reef in December. The Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) warned that if Juan Wee, proprietor of the “Island and Cruise Adventure Inc”, owner of diving boat Island Explorer, fails to immediately undertake removal and cleanup of the area, it will file administrative, civil and criminal charges, including violation of environment protection laws under the National Integrated Protected Areas System. The Apo Reef is a protected area. The law office said it will also ask for the immediate revocation of the company’s business license. Island Explorer is a Japanese-made fishing vessel converted into a diving boat, it measures 150 feet, weighs 450 tons and has fuel capacity of almost 200,000 litres of bunker fuel. At the time of grounding, the boat was believed to be carrying about 80,000 litres of bunker fuel. “The vessel has been abandoned for a month now and an undetermined amount of fuel has already leaked toward Apo Menor and Apo Meyor, causing irreparable damage to the reef”, lawyer Marie Francesca Yuvienco of the PILC, said in a news conference in Quezon City. She added that the community, particularly fisher folk of Sablayan, Mindoro Occidental, are also concerned with reports that the company intends to blow up the vessel in order to remove evidence of the crash and oil spill. Yuvienco and fellow lawyers at the PILC urged Wee “to remove the vessel as well as to undertake the immediate clean-up of the reef so as not to further damage and ecosystem in the area”. Based on the information gathered by the PILC, the vessel left Batangas City port on 20 December on its way to Apo Reef despite bad weather. The vessel carried 24 passengers and entered the Apo Menor.
Reef the following day, around 02.30 hrs, and crashed. It has not been attended to since then. Apo Reef, a world-famous dive spot, is a protected area and is known for having the most number of fish species in the world largely due to the existence of corals where fish feeds on. Besides the filing of a criminal cases, Arellano said the fisher folk and the local government officials of Sablayan must demand immediate indemnification from Wee. Meanwhile, DENR lawyers are also studying the appropriate cases it will file against Wee. “We are looking into the accountability of the owner. But for now, we have already ordered Southern Tagalog officials to coordinate with the Coast Guard in order to contain the oil spill”, Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun said in an interview.
21 January 2004 –Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Elisea Gozun ordered yesterday an investigation into what environmentalists have called the largest fuel spill in Philippine waters since the Bataan oil spill in 1990. Gozun issued the order as biologically toxic diesel fuel continued to leak out of dive boat Island Explorer, owned by “Scuba World Inc” of businessman Juan Wee, which ran aground on the Apo Reef National Park off Mindoro a month ago. As the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) scrambled to clean up the diesel fuel leaking out of the grounded boat and endangering marine life in Apo Reef, civic groups, led by the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), prepared to file charges against the boat owner.
“We’re running after time”, PILC lawyer Marie Yuvienco said in a forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. “There’s still five tons of fuel leaking out of Island Explorer and it may go into the lagoon”. Yuvienco said marine biologists have warned that the fuel that has leaked out of the boat has already killed much of the coral in the reef and is threatening to wreak further irreparable damage if it enters the lagoon. Yuvienco presented aerial photographs, taken on Saturday, showing Island Explorer lying on its side atop a reef and surrounded by what appeared to be dying or dead coral. The lawyer lambasted DENR area official Rodel Boyles and Coast Guard Lt. Allen Dalangin for certifying that there was no fuel leak at the reef. Environmentalist Trixie Concepcion of Agham confirmed that the fuel spill has already caused great damage to the reef and not only endangers Apo Reef, which serves as a nursery for economically and scientifically valuable marine species, but also the equally rich waters off Palawan island. Concepcion lamented that when Island Explorer ran aground on 20 December, it tracked a large fuel spill in the country’s otherwise pristine waters. Yuvienco said the boat’s owner could be held liable for violating several laws, particularly Presidential Decree No. 600 which prohibits the discharge of fuel into the country’s marine territory. Scuba World and Wee could also be charged of violating the law on the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) as well as rules issued by the Protected Areas Management Bureau (PAMB), she added. Yuvienco said Scuba World could also be charged of violating marine safety laws as 24 persons were recorded to have been aboard the vessel at the time of the accident although it was only rated for 16 passengers. In a letter Scuba World denied that some 80,000 litres of bunker fuel were still on board Island Explorer but confirmed Yuvienco’s claim that some 5,000 litres of fuel still have to be removed from the Apo Reef. In its letter, Megan Collins of Scuba World said “the removal of the vessel has not been completed for the reason that we have opted to assign it to professional salvors to ensure no further harm to the reef”.
23 January 2004 – Prestige (Bahamas)
Citing “the interests of justice and the due process of law”, a federal court judge in Houston this week ordered that a $50 million negligence suit filed by various Basque government entities against ABS over the crude oil tanker Prestige disaster be transferred to New York. The ruling represents a win for ABS, reversing as it does a prior decision last October denying the classification society’s request for the dismissal of the case, its suspension pending the resolution of a similar case in Spain, or its transfer to federal court in New York, where the Spanish government has filed similar claims against ABS. In a decision signed on 15 January and entered on Tuesday (20 January), federal trial court judge Kenneth Hoyt noted that “the issue before the court is one of standing, whether the kingdom of Spain’s provisional government entities, particularly the Basque group, have standing to maintain this suit separate and apart from the kingdom of Spain”.
He found that “sufficient doubt is raised as to the Basques’ standing that this issue alone supports a stay or transfer of this case”. Judge Hoyt added: “A single forum for like litigation prevents the possibility of double exposure on the part of ABS and other defendants who may share liability. In addition, claims or affirmative defences that ought to be asserted against the kingdom of Spain by ABS are preserved by this transfer”.
28 January 2004 – Exxon Valdez (USA)
A federal judge today ordered Exxon Mobil Corp to pay about $6.75 billion in punitive damages and interest to thousands of fishermen and others affected by the 1989 oil spill from non specific tanker Exxon Valdez. Exxon Mobil has 30 days to appeal the order by US District Judge Russel Holland, who ordered the Irving, Texas-based company to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages and about $2.25 billion in interest. The money is to go to 32,000 fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, small businessmen and municipalities affected by the 11-million-gallon spill in Prince William Sound. “We have now closed the trial court doors for the last time in this litigation after 15 years”, said David Oesting, lead attorney for those who sued. “We’re definitely on track to the end of the entire dispute”.