Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) has hired an old tanker to transfer part of the crude from the fire-ravaged supertanker “New Diamond” currently anchored at Kalba, near Fujairah.
Sources in the shipping industry have said the IOC does not appear to have “learned any lessons” from the fire aboard the Greek-owned, Panama-registered “New Diamond” off the coast of Sri Lanka in early September, which claimed the life of a sailor.
‘New Diamond’ was carrying 270,000 metric tonnes or two million barrels of crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip when a boiler explosion in its engine room caused a fire offshore of Sangamankanda in the Ampara district of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Navy, with the help of its Indian counterparts and the Coast Guard, extinguished the fire after great efforts.
The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) was declared dead vessel after the fire, and currently has no engine power and the vessel’s winches are not functioning. The tanker is unable to supply inert gas, and its cargo pumps are also not operational.
The tanker was therefore towed to the Kalba anchorage, from where the crude oil is transferred to two vessels through a ship-to-ship lightening operation (STS) and transported to India.
Indian Oil Corporation tendered for the hiring of two Suezmax carriers, each capable of carrying one million barrels of oil.
The first million barrels are produced by a vessel built in 2005, the “ Jag Lalit ”, owned by Great Eastern Shipping Co Ltd.
“However, it is surprising that the million-plus Ship-to-Ship (STS) lightening operation has been awarded to another Indian company undertaking the task on a ship built in 2000 which by the way is the same age as the ‘New Diamond’, ”said a shipping industry source.
“Such a complicated operation was awarded by the Indian Oil Corporation on the basis of the lowest rate quoted in the tender without any weighting in relation to the experience of the company and that too on a vessel of 20 years, ”the industry source said.
As for the value of the cargo stranded on board, the additional cost of renting a younger vessel would be negligible, the source added.
Indian Oil did not respond to an email seeking comment.