Another attempt to rescue Heng Tong stranded off the coast of Karachi failed on Wednesday. The eligibility of SeaMax, the company operating the salvage operation, was called into question.
According to shipping industry sources, the ship's owner hired Seamax in Pakistan through Dubai-based C-Crest to save money and Seamax hired a local company that specialises in ship breaking.
The Port and Shipping director-general objected to the salvage operation plan and hinted at an investigation into the companies' eligibility and approval of the plan.
The owner of the ship stranded off the coast of Karachi, hired SeaMax through a company called seacrest through a Pakistani citizen named Imtiaz in Dubai. Foreign salvage company had demanded huge money for services. Heng Tong's shipping agent in Pakistan was also excluded from the deal, and the ship's owner deal with the salvage company directly.
Sources said SeaMax did not have a salvage licence nor did it have a Protection and Indemnity (P&I) club coordinator. The SeaMax maritime company had sought permission from the port authorities to survey the ship on July 25, four days after the ship stuck. This request was rejected on the basis of three basic objections. Authorities objected and demand to present a Salvage Master licence. The company should also inform about coordinator of P&I Club, an association of companies providing insurance to ships.
Officials also raised another objection that SeaMax was not registered as a salvage company with the Karachi Port Trust. Despite these basic objections, lack of licence and registration, it is surprising that SeaMax was allowed to conduct salvage operations, observed sources.
SeaMax hired a company called Ayan Shipbreaking to pull the stranded ship out. The company's flag was hoisted on the stranded ship with the flag of Salvage Company - SeaMax.
It was the first time in the world that a flagship of a shipbreaking company was flown on a functional and intact ship. The ship agent also objected in this regard.
During the operation, started on August 24 to extricate the stranded ship , the ship's captain handed over control of the ship to shipbreaking workers. The shipbreaking company has been providing illegal access to the ship to unauthorised persons, it was alleged.
Moreover, sources claimed that the company had never extricated a stranded ship and all the machinery and equipment used on the ground in the operation were also brought from Gadani Shipbreaking yard. No progress was made on Wednesday in the ongoing operation to pull the stranded ship into the sea. The ship remained on the shore.
Another attempt to evacuate the ship is expected on Thursday, after which the next high tide will be in until the second week of September.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2021.
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