June: CIRCULAR 2A/2005


On 11 May 2005 at 9.45 a.m. an explosion ripped through the engine room of the MV “CONTRAMAESTRE CASADO” just off White Cape in Mallorca, spilling about 1,000 tons of the 20,000 supposed tons of oil contained in this fictive tank vessel into the sea and sparking a major international emergency operation. The simulated explosion also caused injuries of four crew members which were to be removed to the Emergency operational medical staff located for the exercise in the coast.

This was the beginning of the exercise against maritime pollution named “Mediterranean 2005”, where France, Italy, Monaco and Spain participated in order to prevent and fight jointly in case a pollution disaster takes place in East Mediterranean Sea. The Harbour Master of Palma started the National Plan of Contingencies for Accidental Maritime Pollution The aim was to contain the oil spill and to safe crew life on minor time bearing in mind all effectives of the countries involved.

National and international authorities and organisations attended the exercise. As advised in our joint Stop Press Advice of 2nd February 2005, Indeco and Rubine e Hijos where also invited in their capacity as Spanish P&I correspondents. In the photograph below, Andrea Bermejo from Indeco and Luis del Moral from Rubine e Hijos.

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The Palma exercise gave an opportunity to activate two frameworks of multilateral co-operation between Mediterranean countries, the LION PLAN between France and Spain and the RAMOGEPOL PLAN between France, Italy and Monaco.

Spain dispatched for the exercise the tug boat “PUNTA MAYOR” and the salvage launch “SALVAMAR ACRUX”, both vessels supposed to use the oil recovery “V formation” with current buster barrage. France operated with the French Navy Chartered AHTS “ALIETTE” and Italy with the Italian patrol boat “CP 902 DICIOTTI”, also equipped with oil dispersing spreader. Special “skimmers” which absorb toxic liquids were used to treat the spill oils while the “hydrohoover” sucked it. The supposed spill oil was extended from the vessel until the coast of the port of “La Rapita” where there was an operative system of people prepared to pick up the spill oil arriving to the coast line.

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Following the necessary procedure and discussions the Harbour Master of Palma, with the authorisation of the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine (GDMM), decided to shelter the vessel to the most convenient port of refuge for the damaged vessel, the port of Palma, under a financial guarantee.

The letter of guarantee put forward recently by the International Group of P&I Clubs before IMO in the amount of USD 10 million was proposed as a financial guarantee to the benefit of the Port of Palma. Spanish Royal Decree 210/2004, which is an implement of the European Directive 2002/59/CE, and Spanish Law 62/03 leave a door open to all type of financial guarantees, including Club letters, and in this respect we approached the Harbour Master of Palma who was open to discussion and ready to initially accept a Club letter. Those P&I insurers which are authorised to operate in Spain as an insurance company ready to provide insurance bond cover may be in a position to offer Club letters.

After the simulate practice, on the 12 May 2005 a round table open discussion took place to evaluate how the four states involved in the live exercise dealt and responded to the disaster and how they could be improved. One of the problems that appeared during this exercise was the communication services channels amongst the different states’ agents involved. It was also discussed that the principal constraint of the exercise was to condense the deployment of aerial, maritime and shore means and endeavour to complete same within three hours time whereas inevitably in a live situation this would take one, two or three weeks. A Sub-Regional Agreement on Maritime Surveillance of the Western Mediterranean Sea was also proposed to increase the detection of wilful act of oil dumping at sea and internationally co-operate to combat oil pollution at sea.

Should any P&I insurer, shipowner or operator have any queries or require our assistance in respect of the subject informed they should not hesitate to contact us.