JUNE 26, 2012 — Stolt Valor, the tanker that caught fire north of Bahrain on March 15 (see earlier story), is now under tow, headed for the ASRY ship repair yard in Bahrain. The operation, expected to take 60 hours, got under way today after Bahrain's General Organization of Sea Ports (GOP) granted the ship permission to take refuge in Bahrain's waters.
The Kingdom of Bahrain was identified as the best destination for the Stolt Valor due to the technical capabilities of both the GOP as a regulator and supervisor of maritime safety and environmental matters, and of ASRY's capabilities and expertise as a ship repair yard. Additionally, the proximity of the ship to Bahrain's territorial waters simplified the decision on the destination.
The GOP was established on September 2006 with a mission to develop Bahrain's maritime industry and infrastructure and regulate its operation. As a regulator, the GOP is responsible for supervising all maritime safety and environmental matters.
Prior to the commencement of the tow operation, the GOP submitted a plan of action for approval by representatives from Bahrain's Environmental Affairs and the Bahrain Coast Guard, after which the matter was presented to the National Committee for the Combating of Disasters and other concerned parties for their approvals.
The decision to provide refuge for the ship followed a period of intense preparation for the potential transit of the vessel into and through Bahrain's territorial waters.
The GOP has conducted a full risk assessment of the situation, and is in continuous contact with all concerned parties, including the Bahrain Coast Guard and the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife (PMEW), the vessel's Flag State regulator — Bureau of Maritime Affairs, Liberia— in order to ensure that the vessel is towed to Bahrain in compliance with the approved plan.
A key factor in approving the vessel for transit to ASRY was the compliance of the vessel's owner with a number of stringent requirements, including: performing offshore lighterage of all heavy fuel oil, diesel, lube oil and all cargo remaining on board; gas freeing for the entire vessel including all tanks; structural assessment report for the intended tow-voyage to the repair yard; confirmation from ASRY for receiving vessel directly to the dry dock; approval to use an inward route to ASRY outside the main channel; and full liability for any unforeseen eventualities.
Commenting on the announcement the Director General of the GOP Hassan Ali Al Majed said, "We are happy to provide refuge for the Stolt Valor vessel in Bahrain, especially since the ship owner has fully complied with our requirements. As the maritime regulator, GOP is committed to complying with the rules and regulations as laid down by the IMO, and we feel it is our duty to provide what assistance we can. The scale of the Stolt Valor operation is unique to the region due to its complexity, however we are confident in the technical expertise of our teams who are all committed towards resolving the situation quickly and efficiently, and who take maritime safety and environmental protection very seriously."