With no P&I Club cover and very little hull insurance, the MT Phoenix is currently resident at Salt Rock north of Durban. Are we looking at another Seli 1 scenario? The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has issued a statement saying that the owners of the tanker (which was on its way to the breakers) are “currently not responding to any communication” – a situation that should leave the vessel’s new neighbours with some real concerns.
It’s a situation that has prompted some in the industry to call for South Africa to seriously consider the benefits of appointing someone within the relevant government departments with similar jurisdiction to that of the UK’s SOSREP (Secretary of State Representative) for Maritime Salvage and Intervention.The position (and its almost unilateral powers) has gained respect in maritime circles following a number of high profile incidents off the UK coast.
The popular thinking in this regard is that, if South Africa had such a person with the requisite jurisdiction, the MT Phoenix would now be sitting safely in the port of Durban undergoing repairs before being sold at auction under the ruling which SAMSA was granted by the High Court on 22 July.
A SOSREP, you see, can override all decisions and make a call that should (theoretically) prove to be in the best interests of the environment and the safety of all concerned. He can force a port to act as a Port of Refuge in such situations where the risks of bringing the vessel into a safe haven are weighed against the risks of keeping her off port limits.
But with the lack of required insurance in place, the vessel anchored off port limits and, according to industry sources, attempted to undertake repairs at anchor. With no time to move her further out to sea or a mandate to force her into the port ahead of the storm, it is a sad consequence that she is now beached and vulnerable to further weather conditions.
It is a position that will make her hard to salvage and thus unlikely capable of recouping the expense that she is about to incur. And so the fact that “purchasers for the vessel have been identified” may prove irrelevant.
Fortunately the crew have been removed, but even their story is not without poignancy. Due to be repatriated, they will allegedly not be able to claim their wages as their remuneration was based on the successful delivery of the tanker to the scrappers!