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Saturday, January 20, 2018

LAKE MARACAIBO GROUNDINGS Local authorities must be accountable, says INTERTANKO

On 28 February a 89,4000 dwt tanker fully laden grounded in the hazardous Lake Maracaibo shipping channel. Ten days later another Aframax tanker grounded in the same location.

Both vessels were proceeding with an approved draught through the marked channels; both vessels had channel pilots on board. Much of the commentary on these incidents has focused on the fact that both vessels were damaged not by the grounding itself, but by an uncharted steel object on the channel bed which divers in one incident described as resembling a dredger grab. In both cases, the local pilots appeared ignorant of the underwater obstruction.

The depth of the water in the Lake Maracaibo channel is notorious as being subject to change and a number of groundings within the Channel are know to have occurred in the past.

INTERTANKO is deeply concerned that these incidents have taken place and believes it is essential that the local authorities consider the security of vessels entering their waters and terminals and be fully accountable when things go wrong which are obviously beyond the control of the vessel or its Master.

INTERTANKO's Managing Director, Dagfinn Lunde says "We must now establish who is responsible for the safety of waterways and sea lanes and who provides proper navigational regulations in and out of ports and coastal waters. Also who is to be made aware of the whereabouts of underwater obstructions and who is to chart them."

"It is intolerable that when the shipowner and shipping industry have done so much to improve standards over the years that we can still have a situation where not even local channel pilots are made aware of underwater hazards. It is also completely unacceptable that under such circumstances vessels should be detained and court proceedings commenced against the Captain", he said.

INTERTANKO, which works for 'Safe Transport, Cleaner Seas and Free Competition' , is seeking ways to establish direct contact with the Venezuelan Authorities in order to ensure that proper regulations for navigation are put in place, which clearly allocate areas of responsibility. It is also one of INTERTANKO's main concerns to seek improved legal protection for Captains, who in such incidents are "automatically" held accountable for events apparently beyond their control. Furthermore, the responsibility and role of the pilot is once again a key issue, and clearer regulations are urgently needed.

For the benefit of international shipping, INTERTANKO will invite all relevant parties to the above incidents to a constructive dialogue aimed at removing the shortcomings of national and international legislation and to fight the trend which appears to place automatic responsibility on the vessel and/or its owner.

For more information contact:
Ms Sybil Gosselin Tel: +47 22 12 26 40
Mobile: +44 385 95 75 89

Mr Dagfinn Lunde Tel: +47 22 12 26 50