A chemical tanker that has been adrift at sea for nearly three months which at one point threatened Bahrain's coastline will soon be towed to the country for repairs.
A fire on board the Liberian-registered Stolt Valor on March 15 had resulted in an explosion which crippled the vessel that was on its way from Jubail in Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.
It was carrying 12,700 metric tonnes of a volatile flammable liquid chemical, petrol additive and several tonnes of lube oil and other additives.
Plans to safely haul the vessel to Bahrain's territorial waters before undergoing extensive repairs at Asry were yesterday discussed during a meeting at the General Organisation of Sea Ports (GOP) offices in Hidd.
Present during the meeting were representatives of Bahrain's Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, Bahrain Coastguard, Bahrain Customs, Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre, SMIT Salvage and Asry as well as representatives of Stolt Valor owners, their insurance company and the vessel's agent.
They also discussed strategies to ensure maritime safety and manage technical, legal and environmental issues that could pose a threat when towing the vessel.
'We have been working closely with all of the involved parties to ensure that the situation remains under control,' said GOP director-general Hassan Ali Al Majed, who chaired the meeting.
'The necessity of having a sound and secure route plan in place before the ship can be towed to Bahrain is important. We need to ensure a direct route for the vessel, clear of all possible obstructions and outside of Bahrain's main navigation channel.'
Al Majed said the vessel is currently in stable condition and has been anchored with minimum stresses applied.
He revealed that the GOP had been monitoring the situation closely since the incident and was in regular communication with all parties concerned to resolve the situation.
The fire was extinguished on March 22, while the removal of all pollutants - both chemical cargo and fuel - was completed by April 29, with no spillage during the transfer, added Al Majed.
The GOP will also ensure that the tanker's passage to Asry will not cause any environmental pollution, he added.
Bahrain was on red alert for more than a week after the incident, following fears of pollution due to an oil spill from the tanker could reach its coastline and affect its marine resources as well as damage its three main desalination plants.
Twenty-four seamen on board the vessel, all from the Philippines, were rescued by US Navy personnel while one, who is still missing, is believed to have died in the blast. - TradeArabia News Service
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(Originally published June 5, 2012, in Trade Arabia.)