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Sunday, January 1, 2012

OSM Arena - from murky waters to sewer waters..........

‘Ships are safe in Harbour – but that is not what they are built to be’ – for this ill-fated ship, even the protected waters offers no safety…… that  summarises the story of  MV OSM Arena.  OSM Areana is a South Korean flagged Bulk carrier cargo ship with IMO No. 8411334 and dimensions of 190 M length and 32 m beam.  Its call sign was DSOC5.   The vessel was not sailing and had to remain stationary – the sailors aboard the conflict ridden vessel had to lead a pathetic living remaining on board for several months without setting foot on land. 

When  I posted earlier, the ship was anchored two nautical miles outside the Chennai port; there were difficulties to its occupants as they could not enter the city of Chennai – perhaps now the vessel itself chose to come closer to the  shore – almost entering the sands of the famous Marina beach – courtesy very severe cyclonic storm “Thane” that ravaged Pondy and Cuddalore.
The vessel closer to shore (a photo by my friend Thirumazhisai Kannan)

Certainly Chennai was not the happiest of its ‘port of call’ when it arrived here in Jan 2010.  Calcutta High Court passed an order that the said vessel should not to leave Port of Chennai without the leave of Calcutta High Court.   Orders were passed directing the Custom authorities to ensure that the said vessel does not set sail without leave of the High Court, Calcutta as directed by the earlier order dated 19.01.2010.  On 23.02.2010,  an  Admiralty Suit  was filed  before the Calcutta High Court interalia claiming arrest of the vessel under Admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court at Calcutta.   In Feb 2010, an order for the arrest  of the vessel  M.V. OSM Arena was passed;  Calcutta High Court  also passed an order appointing the Receiver. 

  The vessel position graphically

The vessel was constrained at the Chennai Port; though the vessel was arrested, its sale was not ordered and pending litigation the vessel could not leave the Port.  Then there was another suit that the ship owners had failed to clear wage arrears of over $10,000 to three Myanmarese crew members of the vessel. Besides the wage arrears claim,  further  claim towards services and supplies extended by Chennai-based shipping agents also loomed large.  To tide over the crisis, the Court ordered the sale of vessel and tenders were floated for sale in public auction in "as is where is" condition, free of all liens.  The tenderers were to pay EMD of  Rs.25,00,000/- 

Months later, there were reports quoting  Kim Goeng Tai, the captain of the vessel,  that they had no food, drinking water or fuel on board.   After the Madras high court ordered the sale of the vessel on humanitarian grounds, came the news of the Kolkata-based firm approached the Supreme Court again questioning the amount fixed for the sale. Following the complaint, the Supreme Court directed Madras high court to review the case and a division bench of the High Court cancelled the sale.

Following the floating of tenders, the auction purchaser had deposited 25% of the bid amount and the balance was to be deposited by borrowing from Bank.  An amount of Rs.20.68 crores was reportedly deposited by the  auction purchaser.  As there were more and more litigation,  the Auction purchaser  stated that he had acted in good faith in submitting a bonafide bid for purchase of the vessel and that because of the protracting litigation and the objections to the sale, they may be permitted to withdraw the bid amount of Rs.20.68 crores including the EMD deposited by the auction purchaser may be refunded to them. 

In July 2011, Madras High Court observed that when the order of the vessel is subsisting and the order is sustained, the sale has to be set aside.  That Judgment ensured that the sale was set aside and the amount deposited by the auction purchaser was directed to be refunded forthwith.  Madras High Court also ordered that further  proceedings in C.S.No.75 of 2011 pending on the file of this Court shall  await further orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Transfer Petition (Civil) No.665 of 2011.  Upon directions of the Court, Sea Traffic had been taking care of maintenance of supplies to the vessel and the amount spent by them were to be treated as first charge / priority basis for payment from and out of the sale proceeds of the vessel.

Not sure of what happened thereafter, but sure the vessel could not sail and remained in the outer anchorage uncared for and neglected.
On Friday, 30th Dec 2011 – when the sea was lot turbulent due to cyclone Thane, the vessel anchored off the Chennai Port with a 14 member crew drifted away towards the shore near INA Adyar.  Reportedly,  Coast Guard was informed immediately after the vessel began dragging its anchor due to rough seas.  Due to gusty winds, the vessel drifted eastwards and reached around 600 metres from the shore between mouth of Cooum River and the Port’s coal yard near INS Adyar. The vessel was afloat in 12 to 13 metres of depth and action was being taken to shift it with the assistance of port tugs into deeper waters.  It is claimed that  in its present position, there  was no danger to the vessel or the environment.   The ship reportedly has around 400 tonnes of bunker fuel,  and its causing pollution and damage to sea environment is not entirely ruled out.
Efforts are on to tow the ship back to the outer anchorage.   Those who know Chennai know it all.  Chennai has no irrigational rivers.  River Coovum is totally contaminated due to effluents, sewerage and industrial pollutants.  It is totally an eye sore. Its unbearable stench could be felt as one crosses the Napier bridge, after  Madras University before War Memorial.  The vessel could be seen from the adjoining road of Napier Bridge. 

From murkier waters to the dirty sewerage water of Coovum, the vessel could not sail worser !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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