The General Organization of Sea Ports (GOP) said that the Liberian vessel -- MV Stolt Valor -- was granted permission to take refuge in Bahrain’s waters. The operation to move the tanker to the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY) began early on Tuesday June 26, 2012), where the ASRY team began preparing it for its onward journey.
Prior to the commencement of the tow operation, the GOP submitted a plan of action for approval by representatives from Bahrain’s Environmental Affairs and the Bahrain Coast Guard, after which the matter was presented to the National Committee for the Combating of Disasters and other concerned parties for their approvals. The decision to provide refuge for the ship followed a period of intense preparation for the potential transit of the vessel into and through Bahrain’s territorial waters.
The vessel, a Liberian chemical tanker, caught fire in the early hours of 15th March, 2012, north of Bahrain. The GOP has conducted a full risk assessment of the situation, and is in continuous contact with all concerned parties, including the Bahrain Coast Guard and the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife (PMEW), the vessel’s Flag State regulator - Bureau of Maritime Affairs - Liberia, in order to ensure that the vessel is towed to Bahrain as per the approved plan.
A key factor in approving the vessel for transit to ASRY was the compliance of the vessel’s owner with a number of stringent requirements, including: performing offshore lighterage of all heavy fuel oil, diesel, lube oil and all cargo remaining on board; gas freeing for the entire vessel including all tanks; structural assessment report for the intended tow-voyage to the repair yard; confirmation from ASRY for receiving vessel directly to the dry dock; approval to use an inward route to ASRY outside the main channel; and full liability for any unforeseen eventualities.
The GOP has performed all necessary due diligence in preparing the plan of action for the passage of Stolt Valor to ASRY. The plan of action has been reviewed and approved by the GOP’s experienced team of maritime professionals, and it falls in line with National requirements and guidelines for protecting Bahrain’s sensitive marine ecosystem, as well as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) focus on the importance of member states providing maritime assistance services to ships in need. The assembly’s resolution A.949 (23) and A.950 (23) outline and establish accepted guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance.
The Stolt Valor towing operation commenced at 05:12 am this morning based on the favorable local weather conditions. The entire operation will take approximately 60 hours, ending with the vessel being received at ASRY.
“We are happy to provide refuge for the Stolt Valor vessel in Bahrain, especially since the ship owner has fully complied with our requirements,” said Director General of the GOP Hassan Ali Al Majed. “ As the maritime regulator, GOP is committed to complying with the rules and regulations as laid down by the IMO, and we feel it is our duty to provide what assistance we can. The scale of the Stolt Valor operation is unique to the region due to its complexity, however we are confident in the technical expertise of our teams who are all committed towards resolving the situation quickly and efficiently, and who take maritime safety and environmental protection very seriously.”
The Kingdom of Bahrain was identified as the best destination for the Stolt Valor due to the technical capabilities of both the GOP as a regulator and supervisor of maritime safety and environmental matters, and of ASRY’s capabilities and expertise as a world renowned ship repair yard. Additionally, the proximity of the ship to Bahrain’s territorial waters simplified the decision of destination.
The “Stolt Valor” caught fire on 15th March North of Bahrain. The fire, which broke out on board the vessel was completely extinguished by 22nd March, while the removal of all pollutants – both chemical cargo and fuel - was completed by the 29th of April, with no spillage during the transfer. The vessel is currently in stable condition at anchor with minimum stresses applied.