Tanker Damaged in Accident at Kingston Harbor, Jamaica

According to reports from the Jamaica Observer, the MZ Ficus, the petroleum tanker that has been docked in the Kingston Harbor since it slammed into the Shell oil company pier at Rockfort a week ago, is expected to sail to Montego Bay this week to off-load its remaining 1,500 tons of fuel before heading to the Bahamas for repairs.

At the same time, Shell officials said that the accident would not seriously disrupt the off-loading of petroleum products to its East Kingston facility despite the damage to the pier.

There was no oil spilled during the accident, preventing environmental problems.

"It's not a major disaster," said Winston Ormsby, Shell's operations manager. "We have done some remedial work so there is not much dislocation."

Once full-scale repair of the pier began, Ormsby said, the docking and off-loading of vessels could be scheduled in-between the work.

It was not clear, however, how seriously the accident would affect the Jamaica Flour Mills (JFM), whose overhead conveyor that transport wheat from the harbor to its plant on the other side of the road was damaged in the accident.

There could be problems with the equipment used by the flour mills as it sits on the Shell pier, said Ormsby. "The biggest issue is the flour mills," he said. "Their off-loading equipment is on the platform that is damaged. We are not certain what arrangements they will make."

The MV Ficus, a 44,788 deadweight vessel registered in the Isle of Man, is owned by the Moldovan company Angelique Shipping and is leased and operated by Shell International Trading and Shipping, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, which also owns Shell Jamaica.

The vessel arrived last week from Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad with diesel and other refined petroleum products and had off-loaded at petroleum depots in Montego Bay and at Berth 6 in the Kingston transshipment port.

It was apparently maneuvering to dock at the Shell Rockfort pier at about 6:00 pm on December 21 when it slammed into a platform, tearing away a chunk of the concrete structure, damaging a portion of Jamaica Flour Mills' conveyor system.

Some sources estimate that the damage could be between J$75 million to J$100 million, although Ormsby indicated that insurance investigators from Shell Jamaica as well as owners and operators of the vessel were expected in the island to carry out investigations.

A Port Authority of Jamaica marine pilot was aboard the vessel at the time of the accident, which apparently took place in good weather. The ship, with a crew of about 20 Filipinos, is captained by a Dutchman, Kees Cramer.

"We do not know what caused the accident but we do know that the weather was favorable," said Loxley Tulloch, general manager of Grace, Kennedy & Company Shipping Ltd, the ship's agent. "There were no swells at sea or high winds."

Shell's Ormsby said that temporary repairs were done to the Ficus, which was now awaiting permission from the harbor master, Hopeton Delisser, to sail to Montego Bay to off-load its remaining cargo. Delisser is heading an investigation on behalf of the Port Authority of Jamaica ordered by the chairman and CEO, Noel Hylton.

"We expect that permission shortly," Ormsby said. "After Montego Bay, the ship will sail to Freeport, Bahamas for dry-docking and fuller repairs."

There was no damage to the Shell pipeline from the accident. "The pipelines are back from the platform just in case of events like these," he explained. "There is no environmental damage to the harbor because the pipeline was completely empty. The pipelines are kept dry."