The VLCC was carrying crude oil from Kuwait to Paradip port when a boiler explosion caused a fire off the coast of Sri Lanka.

Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) has hired an old tanker to part transfer crude from the fire-ravaged oil supertanker ‘New Diamond’ currently anchored at Kalba near Fujairah.

Shipping industry sources said that IOC doesn’t seem to have “learnt lessons” from the fire on board the Greek-owned and Panama registered ‘New Diamond’ off the coast of Sri Lanka in early September that claimed the life of one seafarer.

‘New Diamond’ was carrying 2,70,000 metric tonnes or two million barrels of crude oil from Mina Al Ahmadi port in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip when a boiler explosion in its engine room caused a fire off the coast of Sangamankanda in Ampara district of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Navy with the help of Indian counterparts and Coast Guard doused the fire after great effort.

The very large crude carrier (VLCC) was declared a dead vessel after the fire, and it currently has no engine power and ship’s winches are not working. The tanker is not capable of providing inert gas, and her cargo pumps are also not operational.

The tanker was, hence, towed to the Kalba anchorage from where the crude oil is being transferred into two ships through a ship to ship (STS) lighterage operation and transported to India.

Indian Oil Corporation floated tenders for hiring two Suezmax carriers, each capable of carrying One million barrel of oil.

The first one million barrel is being done by a 2005-built ship ‘Jag Lalit’ owned by the Great Eastern Shipping Co Ltd.

“However, it is surprising that the ship to ship (STS) lighterage operation for the other One million has been awarded to another Indian company which is undertaking the task on a 2000-built vessel which incidentally is of the same age as the ‘New Diamond’,” a shipping industry source said.

“Such a complicated operation has been awarded by Indian Oil Corporation on the basis of the lowest rate quoted on the tender without any weightage to the experience of the company and that too on a 20-year old vessel,” the industry source said.

In relation to the value of cargo stuck on board, the incremental cost of hiring a younger vessel would be negligible, the source added.

Indian Oil did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Source: The Business Hindu Line