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Better technology leads to safer and cleaner tanker operations

Wed 07 Jun 2017

Better technology leads to safer and cleaner tanker operations
Tsavliris refloated the products tanker Spottail without damaging a coral reef

Salvor reports fewer oil spills and less oil pollution, thanks to improvements in tanker design and operation

Tanker shipping is “safer and cleaner than ever before,” with the number of spills and the quantity of oil lost from tankers less than half what it was 12 years ago, according to salvage company Tsavliris.

In an assessment prepared exclusively for Tanker Shipping & Trade, Tsavliris credited improvements in navaids, ship design and other technology with bringing about this improvement. Based on its experience, the majority of incidents over the past decade occurred while vessels were underway, with the main causes of oil spills being allisions, collisions and groundings. “The goal for everyone must surely be no spills at all, but accidents by their very nature are unpredictable,” the company’s report concluded.

It quoted figures from the International Salvage Union (ISU) covering the period 1994-2016, during which its members salved 25 million tonnes of potential pollutants, an average of more than 1 million tonnes per year. Last year alone, ISU members prevented more than 2.5 million tonnes of potential pollutants from entering the marine environment in a total of 213 salvage operations. Of that total, about 700,000 tonnes were crude oil and 540,000 tonnes were refined products.

For its part, Tsavliris provided support to a number of incidents involving tankers during 2016. The largest was the 310,137 dwt VLCC Armada Ulysses, which was anchored off Tanjung Pelepas, Malaysia, where it was employed as a bunker storage vessel. It was laden with 221,000 tonnes of fuel oil when, on 9 October 2016, it sustained sudden internal leakage from cargo tanks to double bottom tanks.

Tsavliris Salvage dispatched a project manager, naval architect, salvage master, salvage officer and salvage engineer from Greece, Holland and Singapore. A total of 44,464 tonnes of cargo was transferred to a receiving tanker, allowing Armada Ulysses' remaining cargo to be transferred internally from the affected tank.

Another project involved potential risk damage to a sensitive coastal region of Indonesia. The 74,997 dwt products tanker Spottail ran aground while in ballast on 1 November, and the port authority of Batam reported damage to a coral reef and fish farm.

A week later, the vessel was refloated and an underwater inspection was arranged to assess the condition of the grounding site seabed. This discovered that no reef damage or pollution had occurred.

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