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Friday, September 3, 2010

Tanker running aground in Innuit land (Nunavut, Canada) - No oil Spill

Dear (s)

Much water (actually oil) has flown into Arabian sea after the fateful collision of MSC Chitra with MV Khalijia III on Aug 7. The fate of the vessel, the containers, the cargo carried therein, the oil slick, its environmental and other impact all remains under the carpet. There are news that the Maharashtra Govt. has sought 3 crore from the cargo vessel for clean up operation carried out off the city coast.

Here is something that occurred at the treeless Arctic region, which was the place of Inuits and their ancestors. Due to extreme cold conditions, crafting ingenious tools was required for staying alive. Nunavat is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada. This region comprises a major portion of Northern Canada. Here a fuel tanker carrying supplies for the Arctic communities ran aground but fortunately no diesel is leaking. The vessel is Nanny 1993 build, 384 ft fuel tanker. It was carrying 9 million litres (2.4 M gallons) of diesel fuel when it ran aground on 1st of Sept 2010.

Grounding is a marine accident that involves the impact of ship on the seabed resulting in damage to the submerged part of the hull and bottom structure, potentially leading to water ingress. The structural integrity and stability of the ship could be lost for ever. When a large tanker runs aground, there could environmental effects. As the vessel gets struck to the ground, the battering of waves could further weaken and tear it down. Wooden boats often get sheared away and only skeleton would remain in days.

The good news from the Canadian Coast Guard is that there would be no environ impact as the vessel is not leaking and that CG ship Henry Larsen was nearby. The ship reportedly was struck but was not taking on any water nor were the damages serious. A cruise ship Clip Adventurer had run aground recently hitting a rock; all the passengers were safely transferred to a boat.     The 117 metre (384 foot) Nanny could not move after hitting a sand bar sought west of Gjoa Haven in Nunavat. The vessel was carrying diesel fuel for supply to the villages in the remote region. This is a different vessel than its namesake with ID No. 7389352 launched in 1978 which was a super tanker with DWT of 491120.

The vessel owner Woodward Oil were making attempts to refloat it off the sandbar – the 64 km stretch here is known as Simpson strait, a shallow water way separating King William island. This is an area known for shoal (sand bars) – landform extending into the body of water. News reports have it that Woodward is arranging to pump out the fuel to another tanker which might take time before trying to free the beached tanker. There was no oil spill – yes it was not a collision but grounding also could damage the hull very badly. Though there could not be parallel lines – the vessels involved off Mumbai – Chitra and Khalijia III were both single hull ships. Mumbai has no control or has not banned these vessels from entry. Nanny was a tanker with double hull – a vessel whose design at the bottom and sides have two complete layers of water-tight hull surface. The outer layer is the normal hull, the second inner is somewhat further into the ship, forming a redundant barrier in the unfortunate event of hull damage. The design is such that this space is often used as storage tank for fuel or ballast water.

                                                                 Vessel illustration :

Double hulls are more safer than double bottoms which have two layers only in the bottom and not in the sides. In low intensity casualties double hull can prevent flooding beyond the compartment pierced and damaged. This may not be protective enough in case of a powerful collision though. It is a requirement of SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) that all passenger ships are required to have double hull or double bottom. It is also stated that the stability of a double hull ship could be less as the design would impact the centre of gravity.

It is understood that the Port of Fujairah, the biggest refueling centre for ships in Middle East has banned single hull oil tankers. Already the Port has banned entry of phased out single hull tankers in to the Port. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had implemented a global ban on single hull tankers. Some Nations have opted out of this till 2015 – India is one such Nation. The SOLAS International convention 1974 has special requirements for tankers.

MARPOL 73/78 – the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from ships (Marpol is short for Marine Pollution and 73/78 represent years 1973 & 1978) had provided for phasing out of oil tankers and new regulation banning the carriage of heavy grade oil in single hull oil tankers – category 1 are not to trade after 2005. The final phasing out date for cat 2 & 3 was brought forward to 2010 from 2015. All ships flagged under countries that are signatories to MARPOL are subject to its requirements, regardless of where they sail, and member nations are responsible for vessels registered under their respective nationalities.

Thus MSC Chitra & Khalijia III are banned from entry of many ports – such ships had been permitted to enter Indian ports till the end of 2010. There already is regulation that no ship with single hull would be registered in India. The existing Indian ships have a grace time to operate till 2015.

The transitional phase is most often frightful…..

Regards – Sampathkumar. S

Post Script : 
I have to acknowledge the cardinal mistake of comparing two dissimilar objects and different mishaps in this write up. Primarily, the aim was to write on the mishaps and bring out the fact that safety is always the most important and there cannot ever be any dilution to it.   However, the following have not been properly brought out :
1. The rule of double hull is for vessels carrying petroleum cargo i.e., tankers. The double hull encompasses the cargo space only.
2. The vessels involved in Mumbai – MSC Chitra and Khalijia III were container vessels and would not have double hulls
3. The spillage of oil from MSC Chitra was from its bunker tanks. Had Nanny been ruptured at this place, it also probably would have split oil
4. As long as vessels maintain their class, pass all statutory norms, surveyed at appropriate times, and have the insurance & P&I protection – there will not be any reason to ban entry of the vessels.
Though the comparison was largely out of place, I intended to place before my friends group – something on the type of hull i.e., double hull and the protection that it would give. Also an oil tanker getting involved in an accident and leaking out oil could be an invitation to disaster for the marine life.
Thanks to Capt. Rupra Vijay Pal Singh and Capt. M Ravi Narayanan (of JB Boda) for providing me further inputs on this and for their valuable feedback.
Regards – S Sampathkumar.


  1. A good lesson on hull design and ships- Thank you - gopan

  2. Dear Mr Sampath,

    Though your article is written in good spirit but you have got everything WRONG here. You have mixed up two totally different type of marine accidents. Your article shows lack of proper study of ship structures, their types & applications & then the last study of MARPOL.
    Pls do note that M.T. NANNY is a "TANKER" whereas M.V. Khalijia-3 & M.V. MSC Chitra are "CARGO" ships & that is where the BIG difference lies & complete offbeat points in your article.
    I still highly appreciate your reasons for writing the above article.

    Capt. Vijay Pal Singh

  3. Dear Capt.

    Many thanks for bringing out the facts. I do agree that the vessels are totally different in nature and the accidents are also different - One being a collision and the other running aground.
    The article was an attempt to bring out the type of hull i.e., single and double hull.
    The leakage from the diesel tanks of MSC Chitra itself was reported to cause so much of oil spill and pollution and damage to marine life. Also I apprehended how colossal a disaster it would have been, if the tanker Nanny were to leak.
    That apart, I do not stake any claim of knowledge of structure of vessels. Meantime, I also touched on MARPOL and the restriction on single hull, which is yet to be implemented in India.

    Thanks for your valuable comments - Sampathkumar

  4. Sir, I have insured little bit of fishing vessels and cargo from Andhra ports. The distinction that ships will have single and double hull is news to me. Also felt bad that Indian authorities are the last to impose any good safety measures.

    The concluding sentence on 'transitional phase' was indeed attractive

    - Prasad

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Dear Mr Sampath,

    In case you wish to write another article on 'overboard or lost' containers of MSC Chitra, we would be glad to help you with pointers.
    Just for start-up, the clean up process is slow, tedious & taking undue time because of non-cooperation of various govt. agencies.
    That anyway should not surprise anyone.
    Glad to be of assistance.

    Capt. Vijay Pal Singh

  7. Dear Capt. Vijay Pal Singh

    Thanks once again. I had written one about the collision of vessels MSC Chitra & Khalijia III. One on whether the containers would float and one entirely from the Insurance angle - of the liabilities of Carrier and recovery prospects from the Ship owners and Carrier.

    Am very passionate about Marine insurance and my articles are attemps at sharing information on marine related incidents amongst Insurers and my friends.

    Am certainly interested in knowing about the salvage of the vessel MSC Chitra, as also recovery of containers on board and those which had fallen into the sea and were floating for some time.

    Please do send me updated information on this and anything on marine related to my mail id :

    I am happy to know you and receive your feedback

    Regards - Sampathkumar S

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