Maritime Affairs Minister Gives Update on Shell Ficus Tanker

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Capt Jeremy Hudson (right) addresses Monday’s press conference. Also pictured are Maritime Affairs and Labour Minister, Dion Foulkes (centre), and Port Controller Captain Anthony Allens. (Photo/Derek Smith)

By: Gladstone Thurston

NASSAU, Bahamas – Steps are being taken to re-float the 183-metre oil-laden tanker, Ficus, which ran aground off southwestern New Providence, a press conference was told on Monday.

Utilizing a process called ‘lightering’, some of the cargo will be transferred to a barge moored alongside the vessel, said Capt. Jeremy Hudson, Oil Fleet Manager, Shell International Trading and Shipping Company.

“This option has been deemed to be the most environmentally sound and will ensure the integrity of the vessel,” said Capt. Hudson.

The barge required for that operation arrived Monday morning from Tampa, Florida.

Maritime Affairs and Labour Minister Dion Foulkes noted that the grounding of the Ficus makes the National Oil and Chemical Spill Contingency Advisory Committee “even more relevant.”

“I shall expect that after a full investigation into the cause of this incident, the committee will make recommendations to decrease the chances of re-occurrence,” said Mr Foulkes.

Capt. Hudson said the operation “is going to plan.”

Shell is conducting “a full internal investigation” into the cause of the incident and will also assist any investigation launched by the authorities, said Capt Hudson.

“We very much regret that this incident has occurred and any impact it may have caused to the coral,” he said.

“I assure you that our key priority now is to re-float the vessel as safely as possible, while minimizing further environmental impact.”

Nobody was injured during the incident and there has been no pollution or release of oil, said Capt Hudson.

The Ficus, a modern double hull tanker, is managed and operated by Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Limited.

At the time of the grounding last week Wednesday morning, Ficus was underway to the Clifton Pier terminal. It is partially laden with a cargo of jet (aviation kerosene), mogas (motor gas) and gasoil (light automotive diesel).

Within minutes of the incident happening, said Capt Hudson, Shell reported it to the local Bahamian authorities and at the same time fully manned its London Shipping Incident Room.

A response team consisting of engineers, naval architects and other nautical experts were assembled, he said.

He flew from London to Nassau with a team of senior marine experts to manage the response, arriving early the following morning, said Capt Hudson.

This team was soon joined by a number of world class environmental experts, including coral and marine life specialists.

A state of the art oil spill response vessel, the Florida Respondent, is now at the scene as a precautionary measure, said Capt Hudson.