Row over grounded Vera Su continues

The political row over grounded cargo ship Vera Su (IMO 8611219) is showing no sign of settling down. Bulgaria’s caretaker Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev has alleged that the Turkish owner of the vessel was deliberately not taking action to save the ship and its cargo, according to a report in Sofia Globe. The statement was made by the Transport Ministry on October 10th following a series of meetings between Alexiev, Maritime Administration officials in Varna, representatives of the salvors, the ship’s insurer and the insurer of the cargo.

The salvage company had told Alexiev that it was ready to resolve the situation quickly, but so far had not received an assignment from the shipowner. Salvors told Alexiev that a combination of factors – including what was reported as a lack of adequate action by the shipowner to assign the task, and poor weather conditions – could lead to an operation to rescue the ship being delayed. However, action was being taken on a procedure to unload the urea chemical fertiliser cargo in an environmentally sound manner.

Alexiev also raised the issue of the Bulgarian state being reimbursed for expenses, those already incurred and those to come: “The cargo insurers shared with the minister their concern over the divergent signals of the shipowner, who sends different messages to different countries. I will not tolerate in any way such behaviour towards the Bulgarian state. All stakeholders are working in full co-ordination to protect the interests of our country, to minimize the negative impact on the environment … The state will claim all costs incurred in the operation and possible damages”, Alexiev said.

On October 11th the Maritime Administration agency, the salvage company and the insurers were scheduled to review the current state of the vessel and then to submit written proposals to Alexiev for further steps.

After the inspection the transportation of the remaining hazardous materials, such as residual fuel and batteries, will be the priority. The Bulgarian prosecutors have placed the vessel’s captain and second mate under arrest. The two face charges under the Penal Code related to the grounding of the vessel, endangering lives and the environment.

Evacuation of the nine crew members of the Vera Su had begun on October 6th. The crew was taken off using a system of ropes and pulleys and have been placed in quarantine. Using an helicopter to evacuate the crew was deemed too dangerous, given the nearby cliffs and strong winds.

1989-built, Panama-flagged, 1,984 gt Vera Su is owned by VES Shipping management Ltd care of manager Kamer Marine Denizcilik of Istanbul, Turkey. ISM manager is Mimosa management. It is entered with Thomas Miller Specialty on behalf of Kamer Marine Shipping Ltd.