Bad weather delays ship's oil transfer
The cargo transfer from damaged oil tanker Genmar Companion has been delayed yet again by adverse weather.
The vessel, which has a cracked upper deck, has been sheltering off the Copeland Islands since December 16.
It was first due to have its 54,304-tonne cargo transferred from the Bermudan-flagged product tanker on January 1.
The ship-to-ship transfer by specialist company Fendercare Marine to the BW Seine was rescheduled for yesterday.
Now officials, who have been monitoring weather conditions closely, have said the process, which could take between 24 and 36 hours, will begin as soon as weather permits.
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for today and tomorrow, so the chances of the transfer today are thought to be slim.
The Genmar Companion, which will be repaired when it enters Belfast Harbour, has been anchored at the entrance to Belfast Lough for nearly three weeks.
When the delicate operation does begin, a temporary exclusion zone will be in place around the merchant vessel, which had been 40 miles west of Tory Island, Co Donegal, on its journey from Rotterdam to New York when the damage occurred.
Independent councillor for North Down, Alan Chambers, has voiced his concerns about the impact on the environment should something go wrong with the transfer process.
He said: “Why is a damaged tanker ship off Orlock with 54,000 tonnes of oil to be off-loaded at sea being allowed to become a Northern Ireland problem?”
Hugh Shaw, the Secretary of State’s representative for maritime salvage and intervention, has been in close contact with a number of parties, including representatives of the owners and charterers, Belfast Harbour and the Northern Ireland Environment Group chaired by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
He said stringent safeguards will be observed throughout the operation to assure the safety of the crew, the environment and other vessels in the area.
Stormont Environment Minister Alex Attwood said he is continuing to keep a close eye on all the developments.
The SDLP man added: “My officials are working closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and are keeping me fully briefed.”