Belfast Telegraph

Oil tanker transfer hit by weather again

By Amanda Poole

After 22 days of waiting marine officials thought they had caught their calm weather window, but last night efforts to transfer the cargo from damaged oil tanker Genmar Companion were abandoned...again.



The ship-to-ship transfer operation of 54,304 tonnes of vacuum gas oil to the BW Seine first set for December 31, has now been postponed for a fourth time by our infamous inclement weather

Back on December 16, the Bermudan-flagged vessel had been 40 miles west of Tory Island, Co Donegal, on its journey from Rotterdam to New York, when the Master reported a crack on its upper deck.

After a number of locations were considered, the tanker made its way to the entrance of Belfast Lough to enable surveyors to inspect the ship.

Much to the fascination of the spectating public, it has been anchored off the Copeland Islands ever since.

A two-year-old girl, understood to be an officer’s daughter, is on board the merchant vessel, along with a 23-strong crew, mostly from India and the Philippines.

They are all said to be safe and comfortable.

The 24-36 hour operation being carried out by specialist company Fendercare Marine, started yesterday afternoon, after tugs pulled the ships side by side, lines were made secure and final checks were carried out. But it was cancelled when waters became too rough.

A temporary 1.5-mile exclusion zone has been in place since New Year’s Eve, when the operation was first due to start and will continue until the operation is complete.

North Down councillor Alan Chambers is just one person to express concern about the marine environment in the area of natural beauty.

Last night he said: “I think a lot of people have maybe underestimated the magnitude of the task at hand.

“The company conducting it have a very good international reputation. I’m reassured at least the firm doing it is an expert in this kind of work.”

A spokesman for General Marine Management told the Belfast Telegraph that it is in close contact with the vessel’s technical manager, Anglo Eastern and concerned parties.

He added: “General Maritime’s management takes this opportunity to thank everyone who has provided assistance during this process, especially the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Irish government |officials, and Fendercare Marine.”

The ship-to-ship transfer can take place when wind speeds are around 22 knots, which equates to 25mph.

Over the next 48 hours the Met Office is predicting that wind gusts in the Belfast area will be up to 30mph.

Factfile

The Genmar Companion was built in 2004 .

The youngest person on board the merchant vessel is a two-year-old girl.

A total of 54,304 tonnes of vacuum gas oil cargo will be pumped from the damaged oil tanker.

A 1.5mile exclusion zone is in place for the operation, which will take a minimum of 24 hours.

Specialist company Fendercare Marine has |carried out over 11,400 ship-to-ship transfers from 1995–2010.

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