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Bangladesh showing might in marine salvage and repair

Posted on June 29, 2022

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) recently saved an oceangoing ship, which was severely damaged in a mid-sea accident that could have caused the loss of export cargoes worth Tk 800 crore and create an obstacle for navigation.

The CPA took timely and courageous steps to save the 172-metre container vessel after it tilted seven degrees following a sideways collision with another vessel.

So, the CPA, in cooperation with Prantik Bengal Salvage and Diving, completed the delicate task of bringing the ship back to shore for repair.

The collision also created huge holes in the vessel’s hull that were repaired by diving underwater, another task that requires high skills.

The CPA has termed the whole operation a big achievement for the port as well as for Bangladesh as the job highlighted the port’s capabilities to the global community and created a bright image worldwide.

How did the accident happen?

MV Haian City, a Vietnam-flagged container vessel, left Chattogram port for Singapore in the morning of April 14 with 1,105 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers, including 718 TEUs export laden ones.

At around 10:30 am, the ship faced a sideways collision near Kutubdia, around 14 nautical miles off from Patenga Naval base.

MV Orion Express, a Bangladeshi inbound oil tanker, was the ship that had hit and created holes in the container vessel.

The oil tanker managed to arrive in Chattogram on the same afternoon but Haian City had to anchor at sea as two of its cargo holds were flooded due to punctures in its hull.

The rescue job and Prantik Bengal

After the accident, the vessel’s owner and charterer firms sent survey teams to the spot to determine whether the damage could be repaired at sea.

But they had to discard the notion of on-the-spot repairs as it was risky to work on a ship that is tilted, said Rafique Uddin Ahmed, general manager of the ship’s local agent Intermodal Pte Ltd.

The damaged ship was brought back around 20 days after the accident and later berthed at Karnaphuli Dry Dock on the southern part of Karnaphuli river.

Prantik Bengal played a major role in the five-hour salvage operation initiated by the CPA on May 4.

The salvage operation was rendered by six tug boats — four from the CPA and two from Prantik — along with two recovery and pollution control vessels of the CPA.

Because of water in the ship’s cargo holds, the draft of the vessel reached 11 metres, 1.5 metres higher than the permitted draft of 9.5 metres at the port jetties of Karnaphuli river, said Syed Md Arif, chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAA).

Draft at the Karnaphuli Dry Dock on the southern part of the river was enhanced through dredging to berth the ship there, he said.

“Salvaging a damaged vessel carrying over 1,100 TEUs of containers and re-entering it into the port channel was a brave attempt,” Arif added.

Salvaging the ship was a big challenge, but CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan made it happen, said Captain Faridul Alam, deputy conservator of the port authority.

Although the accident occurred during his Eid vacation, the CPA chairman was able to sense the threat and convened an emergency meeting with senior port officials and the ship’s local agent, its insurer P&I Club, Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard and decided to bring it back.

“The vessel was in a dangerous position after the accident as it got tilted, posing a serious threat for ship movement to and from the country’s premier port,” Alam said.

“If the vessel sank at the bay, the whole ship movement passage for the port could have been blocked,” he added.

The underwater repair

It was reported that the vessel’s cargo holds numbers 4 and 5 were flooded due to an underwater puncture in the hull and containers loaded in the cargo holds were affected, Samudera Shipping Line, the charterer of Haian City, said in a statement on April 19.

“Due to a lack of safe access, the extent of container damage cannot be determined. An investigation committee was formed under the Bangladesh Mercantile Marine Office to investigate the cause of the collision incident to assess losses and determine liabilities,” it added.

The collision created a comparatively smaller hole on the portside shell plate, but the main damage was underwater, said Md Golam Sarwar, chairman of Prantik Bengal Salvage and Diving.

He said there was a big 22 feet by 26 feet hole on the hull.

The holes were fixed by welding a huge 33 feet by 40 feet steel patch by diving under water, Sarwar added.

The welding was complex, so the former marine engineer Sarwar got himself engaged in the salvage and underwater repair.

Complexities other than rescue, repair

The CPA wanted to ship the export-laden containers by another vessel, but it could not do so as the vessel’s Vietnam-based owning firm, Hai An Transport and Stevedoring Joint Stock Company, declared General Average (GA).

On April 28, the shipowner declared GA and appointed the Marine Claims Office of Asia Pte Ltd as the general average adjusters, said Samudera Shipping Line.

General Average is a long-established procedure in the maritime industry for distributing extraordinary losses and expenditures in a fair manner between the parties involved in case of a casualty, according to Danish shipping giant Maersk.

Finally, back in action

Over two months after the accident, the ship got certified as seaworthy or fit for sea voyage by international classification society.

It left the Karnaphuli Dry Dock for Singapore on June 21 and is expected to reach the destination by June 29, according to another statement by Samudera released on June 21.

Samudera also said Haian City has completed her temporary repairs and obtained approval for single voyage sailing to Singapore.

The ship is scheduled to depart Singapore after a full cargo discharge for permanent structural repair in a Dry Dock, the statement read.

What experts say about the salvage work

The local salvage firm certainly did an excellent job by salvaging the badly damaged vessel, said Captain Md Anam Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers’ Association (BMMOA).

“If Prantik was not there, we would have had to bring expertise and logistics from abroad for rescuing the vessel,” he said.

Giving an example, the senior master mariner said around 10 years back, a huge vessel brought for scrapping ran aground at the outer anchorage of the port.

Modern heavy tugboats were needed to be brought from abroad to salvage the ship back then.

More than 15 salvage firms are currently engaged in salvage operations in inland water routes, he said.

“But only Prantik is doing salvage operations of oceangoing ships in Bangladesh,” Chowdhury added.

The BMMOA president suggested the government give policy support to equip other salvage firms to be able to salvage oceangoing ships.

“The salvage operation not only saved the ship but also Tk 800 crore worth export cargoes from being wrecked, which could be a permanent obstacle for navigation,” said BSAA Chairman Syed Md Arif.



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