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The Bahama Journal: Grounded Oil Tanker Removed

By Sasha L. Lightbourne
March 6th, 2008

Minister of Maritime Affairs and Labour Senator Dion Foulkes announced Wednesday the successful removal of the Shell oil tanker “The Ficus” from a reef off the southwest coast of New Providence.

The double-hulled tanker ran aground on February 27 and was re-floated Wednesday during an operation that started Monday afternoon, according to the minister.

“As announced previously, SMIT International, a salvage company, proposed rescuing the vessel by removing its cargo and refloating the vessel at high tide,” said a statement from the minister.

“The government wishes to stress that every effort was made to effect the removal of the vessel without further destruction to the reef or marine life in the area. Once again, The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Labour seeks to assure the public that a full investigation will be conducted into this incident and an environmental assessment will be done by the BEST Commission.”

Shell International also issued a pres release Wednesday confirming that the vessel had been removed.

“Cargo was discharged from the ship until a point where it was safely, and without further environmental impact, able to be floated off the shelf where it had been resting. The ship is being moved to Clifton Pier where an underwater inspection will be conducted,” Shell’s press release read.

The release said Shell and its contractors refloated the vessel by offloading a quantity of cargo to an adjacent barge while simultaneously taking on a similar amount of ballast water from the sea to hold the ship safely in place while it waited for a high tide early Wednesday morning.

“This option was deemed to be the most environmentally sound and helped maintain the integrity of the vessel,” the release said. “Priority was given to ensuring that the offloading operation and subsequent removal of the vessel had a minimal effect on the marine ecology of the area.”

Mr. Foulkes said on Monday there were no reports of injuries or pollution of Bahamian waters as a result of the incident.

Captain Jeremy Hudson, Oil Fleet Manager at Shell International, also said Monday that Shell was monitoring the incident closely for any adverse effects on the environment specifically marine life.

“Within minutes of the incident happening, Shell reported it to the local Bahamian authorities and at the same time fully manned its London Shipping Incident Room,” he said. “A response team consisting of engineers, naval architects and other nautical experts was assembled.”

Captain Hudson said he flew into Nassau from London with a team of senior marine experts to manage the response.

“The team was soon joined by a number of world-class environmental experts, including coral and marine life specialists. A state-of-the-art oil spill response vessel, the Florida Responder, is now at the scene as a precautionary measure,” he said.

The vessel ran aground off Goulding Cay at New Providence.

The ship was heading to Clifton Pier and there were 25 crew members onboard, according to officials.

http://www.jonesbahamas.com/?c=45&a=16138

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