ABS has completed an extensive review of the complete survey history of the troubled tanker Castor and categorically refutes allegations made by Spanish authorities that the vessel is "substandard." "This vessel is a damaged ship, not a substandard ship," said Robert D. Somerville
, President of ABS. "It is unfortunate that many of the good intentions that have flowed from the Erika disaster have led to this sort of political, rather than subjective assessment of a maritime casualty," he stressed. "Age is not the determinant of the condition of a ship. It is the manner in which that ship has been managed and maintained that defines its condition. Our records clearly show that this vessel has been conscientiously maintained by a responsible operator."
Since 1997 there has been more than 600 tons of new steel placed into the vessel to maintain full conformance with ABS Rule requirements. This has included extensive replacement of the underdeck longitudinals and main deck plating. "Product tankers, particularly those that operate extensively in the gasolene trades, are subject to corrosion in certain suspect areas of the cargo spaces," explained ABS Chief Surveyor Gus Bourneuf
. "That is why our survey procedures particularly target these areas for close up inspection. Our survey records from the time of the Castor's second Special Survey in 1992 show a consistent pattern of inspection and steel renewal in these areas, in addition to regular scrutiny of the entire structure and safety equipment," said Bourneuf.
"That the vessel has survived in open water for almost two weeks following heavy weather damage is a testament to the residual strength of the hull and the condition of the undamaged structural components," he added. "Our opinion is backed up by the vessel's good Port State Control record which has seen no detentions and a very small number of minor deficiencies, none of them structurally related, over the last two years despite frequent inspections." In addition to being the classification society of record, ABS has also audited the owner, Athenian Sea Carriers Ltd., and the Castor to ISM standards. The vessel successfully completed its intermediate audit in November 2000 at which time the SMC was endorsed. The annual DOC audit was completed in March 2000 and again was successfully endorsed.
ABS has offered to share the complete technical and survey record of the vessel with the Spanish Authorities to assist them in deciding whether to extend refuge to the vessel. Although the Spanish merchant marine authority has agreed to ABS viewing its own inspection report in the future, the offer of technical assistance has been declined as the Government appears adamant that it will not relax its stance. "We make a similar, unequivocal offer of technical assistance to any coastal state that may be prepared to step forward and provide assistance to this vessel before this damaged ship becomes a major maritime calamity," said Somerville.
ABS has made a similar offer to the Cypriot maritime authorities as the flag state of record for the vessel. "We are working closely with the flag state to try and develop a sensible, humane solution to this stalemate," said Somerville.
"The owner, the flag state and ABS are becoming increasingly concerned about this vessel's ability to survive a protracted diplomatic battle over the extension of one of the oldest, most honored maritime traditions of extending assistance to any vessel in distress," stressed ABS Chairman
Frank J.Iarossi. "We believe that everyone with any influence over these events must exhaust every reasonable effort to protect the lives of the brave people rendering salvage assistance to this vessel, and to prevent the growing possibility of a major pollution incident in the sensitive waters of the Mediterranean."
Founded in 1862, ABS is a leading international classification society devoted to promoting the security of life, property and the marine environment through the development and verification of standards for the design, construction and operational maintenance of marine-related facilities.