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SHIP NAME: Castor KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 9
source LMIU
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Sustained crack in No.4 Hold in bad weather on voyage prev 31 Dec 2000 Anch off Nador 01 Jan 2001 where surveyed LOF signed Taken in tow 08 Jan Cargo transferred by 08 Feb Ar Piraeus 19 Mar for repairs Sd prev 05 Jul. Ar Alang 06 Jan 2002 and broken up.


source murray
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link http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/lawjournal/murray.htm

In December 2000, the Castor was navigating the Mediterranean Sea on its voyage from Constanza, Romania to Lagos, Nigeria. Castor, a Cyprus flagged tanker was carrying 29,500 tons of gasoline. Encountering severe winter weather, including a force-12 gale, he Castor developed a twenty-six meter crack across its main deck. Thus began Castor's forty day, 1000 mile saga. Nearly crippled by rough seas, the Castor sought sheltered waters in which it could offload its cargo, for the safety of the ship, her crew, and nearby coastal states. On New Years Eve, Morocco denied Castor's request. Castor's plea for shelter was subsequently denied by Algeria, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, and Tunisia. Spain allegedly feared that the grinding metal from the crack on the ship's deck would create sparks that might cause the ship's cargo to ignite. However, there is serious doubt that the Castor posed any risk of explosion. In addition, Castor was merely seeking sheltered waters, a place of protection from which to offload her cargo and effect minor repairs, so Castor need not have entered a port facility. Spanish search-and-rescue authorities evacuated many of the ship's crew on the high seas. Finally, after forty days as a homeless pariah, wandering the Mediterranean for 1000 miles, Castor's gasoline cargo was offloaded onto two shuttle tankers in a risky at-sea transfer operation in exposed waters off the coast of Malta. Malta's refusal to grant shelter to the Castor is perhaps ironic, given that Malta was the flag state of the Erika. Many of the coastal states involved in the incident decried the Castor as a substandard ship. They argued that their citizens should not be put at risk because of a substandard ship. According to the American Bureau of Shipping, the vessel's classification society, the Castor was a properly maintained, seaworthy vessel that simply incurred damage from heavy weather. In fact, the deck structure was in horrible shape. See below. Castor was able to remain afloat for forty days on the high seas, despite the large crack in its deck, arguably supports this contention.


source OSIR, 2001-02-15
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Throughout the salvage operation, ABS the classification society for the Castor stressed the difference between a damaged vessel and one that is substandard. OSIR quotes Robert Somerville, President of ABS, as saying

Since suffering the initial heavy weather damage, this vessel has subjected to an extreme Force 12 gale with wave heights in excess of 8 meters without any further deterioration in its structural condition.

Over the last 39 days it has been towed 1,000 miles across the Mediterranean, remaining intact without losing any cargo or causing any pollution. Only a remarkably robust, well-maintained vessel in stout structural condition could withstand such a beating and still deliver its cargo safely.

At ABS we are as committed to eliminating the substandard operator and the substandard ship from this industry as the most vociferous legislator. But the difference between these rogues, who form such a small minority within our ranks, and the responsible memners of the maritime community must be emphasized.

Well-found ships can suffer heavy weather damage in extreme circumstances. That not an indication of weakness within the industry's self-regulation mechanism. Rather the manner in which the parties concerned with the Castor responded should assure the public and and concerned governments that we are their allies in seeking to protect life, property, and the environment.


source CONSTANTINOU
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On 23 December 2000, 0330 hrs UTC, vessel Castor departed from the port of Constanza, Romania, with 29,470 tonnes of unleaded gasoline.

During the night at around 19:20 hours UTC, on 30 of December 2000, the officer of the watch reported a strong smell of gasoline. Position was noted as 36 55,25 North (Latitude) and 001 21,56 East (Longitude). The severe weather off the coast of Algeria prevented the crew from conducting a close up inspection of the deck. Daybreak, on 31 of December 2000, confirmed that the vessel had suffered structural damage to the deck plating just forward of midships in way of No. 4 Port, Starboard and Center tanks. Small plumes of cargo could be seen escaping from the tanks through the damaged plating. The vessel notified the damage (18:35 UTC) to MRCC CASABLANCA and was immediately reduced speed and altered course to approach the nearest land.

On 1 of January 2001, at 0400 hrs UTC, vessel arrived off the port of Nador, Morocco awaiting clearance to proceed to more shelter area. However, the Moroccan coast guard instructed the vessel to move 40 miles offshore.

On 3 of January 2001, the owners agreed and signed a Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract with Tsavliris Russ, which dispatched the salvage tug Nikolay Chiker to the scene. Nikolay Chiker arrived on the scene on 4 of January 2001. With the Moroccan authorities unwilling to place their ports or coastline at risk, the vessel continued under its own power with destination the Almeria Bay, Spain, where she arrived at around 1900 hours.

At 0940 hrs UTC, on 5 of January 2001, Spanish Marine Authority inspectors boarded the vessel to carry out an inspection. They left from vessel at 1048 hours. With growing concern for the safety of the vessel, the Spanish authorities arranged for the evacuation of the crew. Nine crewmembers were evacuated into a rescue boat. Spanish Maritime Authorities ordered the Master to abandon present position and stay at least 30 miles off Spanish coast. At 1700 hrs, master ordered the evacuation of the rest of the crew into an accompanying rescue boat.

After having discharged all cargo from the damaged No. 4 tanks into the receiving vessel Giovanna on 21 of January, and despite the harsh weather conditions, Nikolay Chiker was ordered to steer away from the Spanish coast. Castor was towed eastwards towards Algeria in an effort to find a more suitable weather condition for the completion of the cargo transfer. On 24 of January, at 0930 hrs, the Algerian authorities have advised the salvors that the vessel should not be brought within 30 miles of their coastal waters.

Between 24 to 31 of January 2001, Nikolay Chiker continued towing the casualty up and down the Tunisian east coast well outside territorial waters maintaining a distance to the shore of about 35 miles. A request was sent to Maltese Authorities to allow the STS operation to take place in the lee of the islands. Malta responded at 19:40 UTC by telex instructing Nikolay Chiker and Castor to retain at any time a distance of at least 30 miles from the shores of Malta.

At 07:15 hrs UTC, on 6 of February 2001, Yapi was moored alongside Castor at an approximate position 60 miles SW off Malta and eventually at 0940 hours UTC STS operation started.

All remaining cargo was successfully discharged and at around 10:00 UTC, 8 of February 2001, STS operationJ completed and at that time cargo was redelivered to owners. The position of convoy was approximately 120 miles SW off Malta. Preparations commenced to make Castor ready for unmanned tow to Piraeus. Castor arrived to Piraeus, on the 14th.


source ABS April 10, 2001
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Hyper-accelerated Corrosion Believed to have Contributed to Castor Damage preliminary findings highlight importance of tank coatings. April 10, 2001 Following an exhaustive inspection and analysis of the damaged product tanker Castor, the Cyprus Department of Merchant Shipping and ABS have jointly announced preliminary findings that point to hyper-accelerated corrosion as the probable principal cause behind the structural failure. The Castor has become a floating laboratory which is providing us with some surprising findings," said ABS Chairman and CEO Frank J Iarossi in announcing the preliminary results of the investigation "If these initial conclusions hold up, there will be significant implications for class and possibly wider implications for the manner in which the new generation of double hulled tankers should be constructed and maintained." A formal report into the casualty will not be issued by the Cypriot authorities and by ABS until the conclusion of detailed laboratory testing of steel samples cut from the damaged section of the tanker "It will take some time to scientifically verify that our interpretation of events is correct," said Iarossi. The 600 tons of steel, primarily in the deck plating and underdeck longitudinals, that was renewed on the Castor at Special Survey in late 1997 has provided the key to understanding what transpired in the interim Although further testing is still being undertaken, our gaugings indicate that sections of this steel have already wasted by as much as 30 percent," said Iarossi. "This indicates an annual corrosion rate of as much as 1.5mm compared to normal rates of about 0.1mm or less. The critical element, according to the preliminary findings, is the presence, and absence of coatings "The original steel had been coated," explained ABS Chief Surveyor Gus Bourneuf "This coating had begun to break down with age At the fourth special survey, the new steel was not coated. There were no sacrificial anodes in the tanks so the uncoated steel in the underdeck area acted as the anode with the partially corroded, original steel providing the principal point of attack. According to an independent corrosion expert, brought in by ABS to analyze the condition of the ship, three other elements are considered likely to have contributed to the rapid deterioration The vessel had been engaged in the gasoline trades, the most corrosive of all oil products. The critical Number 4 tanks were used for ballast purposes, introducing salt water into the chemical equation. And the vessel had been trading into hot areas, such as West Africa, greatly raising the ambient temperatures in the ullage spaces and creating a fertile environment for the corrosive action. Given the scantlings applicable to this size of ship, the loss of nearly 5mm of the new steel in just over three years of trading represents a very high percentage loss of section," said Bourneuf "The loss of section of the uncoated steel that was not replaced was clearly greater It is reasonable to conclude that this loss of strength in this critical area of the vessel may have contributed to the buckling, and subsequent cracking of the deck plating in the severe weather conditions encountered on passage." "It must be remembered that the Castor had met all class requirements when the major steel replacement was completed, and had remained in class with no outstandings" he [Iarossi] added "We have always felt that the Rules are sufficiently conservative for any operational environment Although it must be emphasized that the Castor was structurally sound, it did not sink, it did not lose any cargo or cause any pollution, and no one was injured or lost their life, if there are shortcomings in the requirements we need to rectify that, and do so quickly."


source ABS, Investigation into the Damage Sustained by the M.V. Castor on 30 December 2000, Final Report, 17 October 2001
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link http://www.eagle.org/news/press/castorreport.pdf

To ABS's credit, in the end they did not attempt a laughably deceitful report as RINA did in the case of the Erika. (Of course, the fact that the ship inconveniently survived made a cover-up a bit more difficult.) The Final Report documents that the steel in the area of the crack was in horrible condition. Portions of the 16mm deckplate were down to less than 6 mm. Many of the underdeck stiffeners were basically gone. 15 mm webs down to 4.4 mm; 15 mm flanges down to 3.4 mm. Four contiguous deck stiffeners in the port tank were totally gone. See picture, Figure 3.4, in the ABS report. Welds between the underdeck stiffeners and the plating were 95% gone. The resulting structure had zip buckling strength.

While the area of severe corrosion was limited, it did cover a large portion of the forward end of the No 4 tanks particularly the center tank. Survey and analysis of this structure leads to the conclusion that the wasted under deck longitudinals became detached during the heavy weather. This weakened the deck structure eventually leading to the buckling and then to cracking.

Gone are the claims of hyper-accelerated corossion. The report does not that the wastage rates of the new uncoated steel (which turned out to be 14.5 mm thick rather than the 16 mm it should have been under Class rules) was as much as 0.7 mm per year. This should not have surprised anybody for uncoated steel in a gasoline/ballast tank without any anodes. The ABS report has some nice pictures of the crack and the horrible condition of the steel in the area of the crack.

The only reason why this ship survived was that she was (a) in a sagging condition at the time, (b) more or less evenly loaded in all tanks, and (c) in the Mediterranean. The deck failed in compression. The crack was being held together by the overall stress pattern in which the foreward and aft ends of the ship are pushed up and the middle part sags down. For the ship to be lost, the bottom had to give way or the crack had to extend down the sides. The bottom apparently was in reasonably good shape and could take the tensile stresses of the fairly short Mediterranean waves. ABS calculated that even in the very rough weather she encountered the worst bending moment was only 69% of the design bending moment. So the bottom was not overstressed in tension.

An important difference between the Castor and the Erika/Prestige is that the Castor was in the gasoline trade. Gasoline had a density of about 0.75 as opposed to the 0.95 and higher of heavy fuel oil. Because of the low density cargo, there was no need to keep some of the midships tanks empty to supply buoyancy in the middle of the ship. The Castor had no permanent ballast tanks. All her tanks were loaded including the 4P, 4C and 4S. This helped her in two ways. Fristly, the wave loading on the side shell plating were much less than say Erika/Prestige because the external pressure of the sea was partially balanced by the internal pressure of the cargo. More importantly, since the tanks were loaded more or less evenly both transversely and longitudinally there was very little shear stress. Shear stress is the stress that results from excess buoyancy on one side of the steel pushing it up and too little buoyancy on the other side pushing it down, in the same way that one side of scissors pushes the paper up while the other side pushes the paper down. Shear stress is the most important stress component in the side shell and the longitudinal bulkheads. In short, the crack was being pushed together, the side shell and the longitudinal bulkheads were lightly loaded, and the crack did not propagate downward.

But it was near thing. ABS calculates that as the ship was going thru the worst case waves, the stress in the deck in way of the crack did cycle into hog albeit at a very low level (15% of design). The 2/M's video does show the deck pumping and spewing out geysers of gasoline. We were fortunate that the Castor as built in 1977 had about 20% more steel than is required by current rules. By the way, the video contradicts the earlier ABS statement that there was no spill.

The ships last Special Survey was in October 1997. In theory, at the end of the special survey there should be no areas with substantial corossion. While quite a bit ot steel was replaced, obviously this was not the case.

An Annual survey in September 1999 found the deck set in way of 2C and 5C. and recommended thickness measurements and the tank be inspected. Annual surveys normally don't go in any tanks. It is quite unusual for an annual survey to pick up internal wastage or the deck to fail in a manner that makes it obvious from the outside that something is wrong.

As a result of the September, 1999 report, repairs were made to the 2C and 5C deck in November 1999. The ship also completed her Intermediate Survey at the time and as part of that survey 4P and 4S were inspected. One piece of steel in 4S was replaced. ABS surveyors were in the Castor's 4S and 4P 13 months before the casualty.

An Annual Survey was carried out in August 2000 with no recommendations or repairs. At the time of the hull failure, the ship was fully classed with the highest rating by a first tier classification society with no outstanding recommendations.


source Cyprus Mail, 2001
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By Jennie Matthew GRAPHIC video footage released this week has shown how close the Cypriot-flagged tanker, the Castor, came to disaster when a crack ruptured the vessel last December. In a hair-raising feat of camera-work, the ship's second officer and pumpman filmed the gaping 20-metre crack as it sprayed fumes and gasoline, against the eerie sounds of the boat creaking on the high seas. Those who log on to Lloyds List's website can see for themselves the fear of being trapped on the 18,656-tonne tanker, which could have exploded at any minute. The video was made on December 31, after the smell of gasoline had alerted the crew the previous night, as the ship ploughed through stormy waters off the coast of Algeria. It was the vessel's eighth day at sea, on a mission to transport a cargo of 29,500 tonnes of unleaded gasoline to Lagos in Nigeria. The Polish captain of the Castor, Janula Stanislaw, gave Lloyds List a blow-by-blow account of the nightmare. "I saw that the crew were terrified," he said. By the time the crew were able to inspect the damage on New Year's Eve, the putrefying smell of petrol had permeated the accommodation block. The crack stretched almost the entire width of the Castor's main deck. "In that moment I felt that in any time there could be a tragedy," said Stanislaw. He said the crew thought about the tragedy of the Athenian Venture, owned by the same company, when 30 people lost their lives. From the footage, the petrol fumes curl up, the crack opens and closes with each swell, the metal creaks and strains. Retired naval architect Jim Smith, who was shown the video clips by Lloyds List, suggested that the rupture had occurred "just forward of a hard point such as a bulkhead". The Castor was denied refuge in Spain, Algeria and Gibraltar. Apart from 6,000 tonnes of petrol salvaged earlier on, the rest of the cargo was not removed until early February - over a month after the accident happened. Salvage company Tsavliris transferred the cargo to another tanker between Malta and Tunisia. Smith noted that the vessel's resilience to further damage in the appalling weather as she floated out in the open Mediterranean, showed that she was otherwise, "in pretty good nick". The Greek-owned ship, laden-free then headed to Piraeus.


source Lloyds List, 2000
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Lloyds List Brian Reyes and Nigel Lowry

THE American Bureau of Shipping yesterday accused Spain of taking a "political, rather than subjective" view of the plight of the stricken product tanker Castor and warned that the vessel´s time was running out. The US classification society categorically refuted Spanish claims that the 1977-built ship was substandard after carrying out a detailed review of its survey history. "Age is not the determinant of the condition of a ship," said ABS president Robert Somerville. "It is the manner in which the ship has been managed and maintained that defines its condition. Our records clearly show that this vessel has been conscientiously maintained by a responsible operator." Mr Somerville, at present based at ABS´s Castor crisis centre in London, held an urgent telephone conference at midday yesterday with the head of Spain´s merchant shipping authority, José Luis López-Sors González. Spanish authorities earlier this week suggested that the Castor may have had structural weaknesses prior to the main deck cracking in severe weather on New Year´s Eve. Mr López-Sors has told Lloyd´s List that the ship will not be allowed to enter Spanish waters, a position he reiterated to this newspaper yesterday. Morocco, Gibraltar and Algeria have also banned the ship. A spokesman for the Gibraltar government, asked if authorities on the Rock might reconsider their position, said: "No way. It is far too dangerous." No country seems willing to accept the ship for fear of its cargo of 29,500 tonnes of gasoline igniting. Salvage company Tsavliris is reported to have concluded preparations for an inerting operation to render the vessel safe, beginning "today or tomorrow" depending on weather conditions. The ship is currently under tow 37 miles off Cartagena in southeast Spain But weather reports suggest that conditions may deteriorate today, which could force the salvor to give priority to moving the casualty to a more protected location.

ABS yesterday expressed clear frustration with the situation. "It is unfortunate that many of the good intentions that have flowed from the Erika disaster have led to this sort of political, rather than subjective, assessment of a maritime casualty," Mr Somerville said. ABS chairman Frank Iarossi added: "The owner, the flag state and ABS are becoming increasingly concerned about this vessel´s ability to survive a protracted diplomatic battle over the extension of one of the oldest, most honoured maritime traditions of extending assistance to any vessel in distress. We believe that everyone with any influence over these events must exhaust every reasonable effort to protect the lives of the brave people rendering salvage assistance to this vessel and to prevent the growing possibility of a major pollution incident in the sensitive waters of the Mediterranean."

The Castor is one of three vessels built to ABS class in 1976 and 1977 by Korea Shipbuilding and Engineering. The other two vessels were transferred out of ABS class in the mid-1980s. An ABS inspector who boarded the vessel after the incident said she was well maintained. "That the vessel has survived in open water for almost two weeks following heavy weather damage is a testament to the residual strength of the hull and the condition of the undamaged structural components," said chief surveyor Gus Bourneuf. Cyprus´ maritime administration also rounded on Spanish assertions that the ship was substandard. "Having carefully reviewed the ship´s records, reports and other data, I can only say that words have lost their meaning," said the island´s senior surveyor Andreas Constantinou, of the Spanish allegations. He added: "If at the end of the day the ship sinks, I do not think that the authorities and the shipping community will be able to take any pride or claim that they exhausted all reasonable efforts to avoid burdening the Mediterranean with almost 30,000 tonnes of gasoline."

The Castor, which is entered with the North of England P and I Association, has a clean port state control record with no detentions reported. She has not been inspected in Spain during the past two years. However, in 2000 six other tankers operated by Athenian Sea Carriers were inspected by Spanish port state control in Barcelona, Tenerife, Tarragona and Bilbao and none was detained. (Comment:- If this ship had been hijacked by pirates in Eastern waters, her cargo would have been almost guaranteed to have been unloaded and "disappeared" within 24 hours!)

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 possible cause.

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.

Aside from these important blemishes, Athenian´s record appears to have been good in recent years and its vessels generally pass port inspections with some comfort, including surveys in Spain, which yesterday unequivocally branded the Castor as a substandard ship. One has to go back nearly 13 years to locate another disturbing moment in the company´s history. This was the loss, with all crew, of the product tanker Athenian Venture in April 1988. The disaster triggered an unusually thorough accident investigation, with a Cypriot surveyor spending fully two years on trying to piece together a reliable explanation for the tragedy. However, in that case the flag state eventually recorded that "no conclusive evidence" could be found to explain what happened.

[In 1999], the company boosted its personnel, including the appointment of Nick Hondos, a former American Bureau of Shipping man, as its chief executive. Mr Hondos has fiercely rebutted Spanish claims this week that the Castor is "in any way substandard".


source CTX
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This is the ship that started the super-rust nonsense. To explain all the corrosion in a "properly maintained" ship, ABS invented a phenomenon called "hyper-accelerated corossion" claiming the ship had experienced corrosion rates of 0.7 mm/year, seven times the expected amount. The press quickly dubbed this "super-rust".

There is no such thing as super-rust. What there is the same old combination of poor maintenance, and understanding/forgiving surveyor standards which eventually leads to a major hull failure.

It is interesting to follow the ABS pronouncements. First the unfortunate crowing about a remarkably robust, well-maintained vessel in stout structural condition . Then the invention of super-rust. And finally the tacit admission that the steel was in horrible shape, despite the fact that ABS had inspected and passed the tanks as recently as 13 months before the failure. ABS of course downplays the latter fact and, if pushed will claim that it was an aberration, an individual rogue surveyor. But in fact, the corrosion did not occur overnight. There were a whole series of surveys. The condition of the tanks was known at least back to 1997 and undoubtedly earlier. A ship this small replacing 600 tons of steel in the deck means that the underdeck area was already in very bad shape in 1997.

The problem is a system in which the regulator depends on the regulatee for his financial existence. It is not the individual surveyor that is being suborned, it is the whole system. When an owner makes a payment to a surveyor, which is quite rare, it is called a bribe. When an owner makes a payment to a classification society which is routine, it is called a fee.