Brian Reyes and Nigel Lowry
Athenian rallies to its standard
Nigel Lowry looks at Athenian Sea Carriers,
operator of the damaged product tanker Castor
which was condemned by Spanish allegations this week as ´substandard´.
This is not the first time that January has proved to be a miserable month
for Athenian Sea Carriers, the Greek shipping company which has been
sweating for the past 10 days on the fate of its damaged product tanker Castor.
In January 1999, two other Athenian-controlled tankers were hit by blasts
within a week of each other; a fact that is likely to have made the
company all the more nervous about the spectre of a spark bringing an
untimely end to the career of the Castor.
Despite not being able to boast an unblemished accident record, though,
Athenian is generally considered a reputable tanker operator
and its vessels appear to have a sound record in the eyes of their flag state,
class and port inspectors around the world.
The worse of the accidents two years ago this month saw five crew killed by
flying metal when there was an explosion on board another handysize
product carrier, Athenian Fidelity, during a voyage from New York to Venezuela.
Despite the fact that the ship left the US with a gas-free certificate,
a subsequent Cypriot investigation concluded that the condition of the 14
year-old vessel changed on reaching warmer Caribbean waters
and work being carried out by crew in chipping the deck
ignited newly developed pockets of gas in her tanks.
The investigation attributed the accident solely to crew negligence,
although Athenian has always been convinced that a gas pocket was
ignited by static electricity after the vessel sailed through a
tropical storm. This was also acknowledged by the Cypriots as a
A few days earlier, the forecastle of the 83,466 dwt Athenian Pride had
been blown off during a ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil to a VLCC
anchored off Fujairah. On that occasion, all crew members survived.
The investigation held that a spark from the anchor chain ignited cleaning
solvents in a bosun´s store. The storeroom door had been left ajar and
crew error was again identified as the primary cause of the accident.