J M Baxi & Co, India’s largest ship agency, carried out crew change on a very large crude carrier (VLCC) at the out port limit of Mumbai port – a first in India – as the global shipping industry looks at innovative ways to sign off crew working beyond their contract period and to on-board their replacements.
Eagle Victoria, an oil super tanker, owned by AET Tanker Holdings Sdn. Bhd., the energy logistics unit of Malaysia’s state-owned MISC Berhad, had to disembark five Indian crew while calling at Mumbai to discharge crude oil for Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL).
As the oil tanker was fully loaded and required a depth of 21.5 metres to dock, it could not enter the port or even the inner or outer harbour of Mumbai Port Trust.
From April 21, the government has allowed crew change for Indian seafarers at Indian ports and framed a standard operating procedure (SOP) to carry out this task.
“We took special permission from the director general of shipping, Mumbai Port Trust and Port Health Organization (PHO) to carry out the crew change,” said Commander Nevil Malao (Retd), Indian Navy and Vice President, J M Baxi & Co.
Crude oil discharge
The crew change was carried out simultaneously while the crude oil was discharged into three smaller ships – Desh Suraksha and Swarna Krishna owned by Shipping Corporation of India – and another run by a private fleet owner.
J M Baxi hired an ocean-going tug to take the five Indian crew to Eagle Victoria, floating at sea some 22 miles from the shore and to bring back the five seafarers who had signed off.
“The crew change was carried out while the cargo discharge operation was in progress so there was no delay because of the two separate tasks. It was a difficult operation; JMB achieved this for the first time ever,” Malao told Businessline.
The ship owner saved port costs as the exercise was carried out at outer port limit where anchorage charges are not applicable.
Upon disembarkation, Covid-19 samples of crew were collected and immigration, PHO formalities were conducted as per the SOP issued by the DG Shipping and Mumbai Port Trust.
J M Baxi has been assisting ships calling at Indian ports to carry out crew change, an issue that has roiled the global shipping industry as the lockdown restrictions in many countries force owners to delay this exercise due to stoppage of flights, curtailing the movement of crew disembarking from ships and those looking to join ships.
J M Baxi said that the crew change work was supported by Mumbai Port Trust, Director General of Shipping, Customs, Immigration and PHO staff.
Source: The Hindu Business Line