Minerva Marine says media allegations “unfounded and inaccurate

Greece-based shipowner Minerva Marine has said that any claims in Israeli media that its crude oil tanker Minerva Helen (IMO 9276561) was responsible for the oil pollution on the Israeli Mediterranean coast were “unfounded and inaccurate”.

The tanker was named by some Israeli news outlets as a prime suspect in the recent oil spill, first detected on February 16th and since when it has affected much of the coastline. An Israeli court had imposed a seven-day gagging order on its media from reporting news on the investigation into the incident, but that order has now been lifted.

Minerva Marine has said that at the time it was suspected of leaking crude oil, the Minerva Helen was unladen.

Reports of the pollution emerged on February 18th, two days after tar balls and clumps of sticky black crude started to appear on Israel’s coastline. A few days later there was oil appearing on the southern Lebanon coast as well.

Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation KAN reported on February 22nd that the Minerva Helen was suspected in this spill.

The vessel transited the Suez Canal, from Singapore, on February 4th and was operating from February 4th until February 13th off the Egyptian northeast coast in international waters.

The vessel was off Alexandria from February 14th until February 15th and set sail for Cartagena, Spain, on February 15th. As of February 24th it was en route from Cartagena to Piraeus, ETA February 27th.

Minerva Marine said yesterday February 24th that from February 4th through to February 11th 2021 the vessel was drifting offshore Port Said, Egypt, awaiting voyage orders, “in empty condition, without any cargo on board”.

It said that drifting while awaiting orders was a routine practice for commercial vessels.

On February 11th at about 09:00 local time the vessel moved to the Port Said Anchorage, where it arrived in the afternoon remaining without any cargo on board.

On February 13th the vessel departed Port Said and the following day arrived in Sidi Kerir port, Egypt where it loaded its cargo. On February 15th the vessel sailed directly to Cartagena Spain, Minerva Marine said

The company insisted that during the period that the vessel was drifting offshore Port Said it was not involved in any operation nor in any other activity that could be connected to an oil discharge at sea.

Minerva Marine further stated that the vessel was classed with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), was well maintained and was without any structural or other defects that could cause an oil pollution incident.

The company added that on February 22nd the vessel was inspected by the Spanish Port State Control Authorities in Cartagena and was determined to be without any deficiencies or observations. The PSC confirmed that the vessel was in a satisfactory maintenance and operational condition.

Minerva Marine Inc said that it would cooperate with any relevant authority in relation to the above.

Approached by Israel’s media company Kan, the Greek company denied any involvement in the suspected spill off the coast of Israel, saying, “We are not the source of the leak”.

Chemical analyses of samples and access to the ship’s operation-related record investigations will shed further light on the matter.

North of England Club confirmed that the vessel was entered with the Club on behalf of Minerva Marine, but had no other comment to make on the matter.

2004-built, Greece-flagged, 58,156 gt Minerva Helen is owned by Helen EME care of manager Minerva Marine of Athens, Greece. It is entered with North of England on behalf of Helen Special Maritime Enterprise