International Chamber of Shipping is a staunch supporter of Lloyd’s Open Form and the worldwide salvage sector’s efforts to prevent environmental disasters
Blockage of the Suez Canal by container ship Ever Given in March 2021 demonstrated how easily global trade is affected by maritime accidents. This huge container transporter needed a flotilla of 15 tugs to remove it from both banks of the southern part of the Suez Canal in Egypt.
While it was firmly stuck, no ships could sail north or south between the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It was estimated that almost US$10Bn was lost in trade each day while the Suez Canal was out of action.
Dutch salvors Smit and Japanese salvors Nippon Salvage refloated 20,000-TEU Ever Given on 30 March with assistance from the Suez Canal Authority, while hundreds of vessels gathered around both the north and south entrances to the canal.
According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), removing the Ever Given blockage “clearly demonstrated the value not only of shipping to the global supply chain, but of the salvage industry as well”.
In answers to questions asked by International Tug & Salvage, the ICS says, “the incident demonstrates the importance of an independent, specialised and well-resourced salvage industry”.
ICS continues, “Even for the Suez Canal Authority, the assistance of external salvors with their expertise and specialist equipment was essential to speedily release the vessel. Salvage workers performed an incredible feat to remove Ever Given.
ICS made a rough estimate of how much this blockage cost global trade. “It is estimated that almost US$10Bn was lost in trade a day,” says the association.
At the time, vessel operator Evergreen Marine said liability for incident sits with shipowner Shoei Kisen Kaisha. After Ever Given was refloated, it was taken to Great Bitter Lake for assessment and then stationed until the negotiated compensation and salvage payments could be made.
ICS says details of the contract salvors had to remove Ever Given were not known by them, but ICS did not think it involved a Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF). Nonetheless, ICS supports LOF and the assistance from salvage companies using these contracts.
Which is why the organisation was dismayed by London-based Lloyd’s proposal, reported in April, to close the Lloyd’s Salvage Arbitration Branch. ICS joined other organisations in reminding the industry of its support for LOF.
“ICS is an important part of the LOF system and has always been a staunch supporter of the unique system, which ensures vital salvage assistance can be provided in an emergency without the need for lengthy contractual negotiations,” ICS says.
“A speedy response is absolutely vital to ensure the safety of the lives of seafarers on board and the safety of the environment, not to mention ensuring global trade can continue to flow in busy waterways. We strongly believe therefore that LOF, and the highly developed ecosystem supporting it, should remain.”
The proposals from Lloyd’s could have an alternative outcome that would encourage greater use of the LOF in salvage. “We are open to considering proposals for the system’s improvement if they are needed to ensure its continuation,” says ICS.
Another key element to ship salvage is access to ports as places of refuge and safe repair. But there have been issues in the past when ports have been asked to accept a damaged or burning ship for safe emergency response.
“ICS would like to see all coastal states offer ports of refuge when ships need them,” the organisation says. “The environmental disaster that can result when a ship is not given entry to a port of refuge was amply and tragically demonstrated in the case of Prestige in 2002, resulting in 60,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and pollution in France, Spain and Portugal.”
This case resulted in IMO drawing up its Guidelines for Places of Refuge in IMO Resolution A.949 (23). IMO is currently revising these guidelines and ICS is participating in this improvement process.
“The proposed revisions are designed to flesh out the existing guidelines to help countries agree to provide a place of refuge to a ship in distress without being exposed to the perils of the sea and break up, or leaking fuel oil, causing damage to the environment,” says ICS.
Riviera Maritime Media’s ITS Salvage Webinar Week is being held 15 June 2021 – use this link for more details and to register