Timber salvage in Bilbao not a simple matter

Ton Schlox – Cunningham Lindsay Global Specialist Practice Group leader, marine – has reported on a complex major loss case in early 2016 that showed the advantage of a proactive approach ehrn such incidents occur.

At the end of January 2016 MV Modern Express, a 164 metre-long vehicle carrier, hit rough waters in the Bay of Biscay while en route from the Gabon to Antwerp, via Le Havre.

Due to the poor weather conditions and the fact that the cargo had not been stowed correctly, the ship began to list, putting the 22 crew members in extreme danger,

wrote Schlox. Rescue helicopters from Spain were dispatched and the crewmembers were evacuated to safety on the mainland.

Efforts to tether the vessel were hampered by the difficult conditions. Initial salvage attempts failed as it was deemed too dangerous for rescue teams to board the ship.

Weather conditions slowly improved and a cable was eventually hooked up to the ship and connected to a salvage tug, which then towed the vessel into Bilbao, preventing the feared environmental damage if the ship had come ashore.

Schlox said that “once safely in port, our work began. We gathered multiple different insurers representing the owners of the cargo, the lawyers and policyholders, and persuaded them that, by acting as a single point of contact, we could salvage the timber and minimize their losses, rather than dumping the cargo in Bilbao and having to negotiate a solution with each cargo owner.”

Cunningham Lindsay pointed out that the loose timber needed to be rebundled. Once safely on the quay, the company assessed the wood for water and oil damage and graded it by quality. The entire discharge and grading process was supervised by Cunningham Lindsay’s local marine surveyor.

Because Bilbao was a relatively small port there was no appropriate market for the timber. Cunningham Lindsay persuaded the interested parties that the best option would be to ship the cargo to Antwerp. This, Schlox wrote, was a costly option, but it offered a bigger port with an appropriate market to sell any unwanted cargo. Schlox noted that finding a suitable carrier to transport the timber from Bilbao to Antwerp was not without issue. “Although a relatively short journey, it took considerable negotiation skills to convince a ship owner to take on board part of this cargo on their weekly vessels between the two ports. After a couple of months all the cargo was safely delivered to Antwerp”, he wrote.

Once in Antwerp, the loss adjuster arranged owner inspections of the timber and negotiated a discount based on the quality of their shipment. “Most orders were successfully fulfilled and we arranged the sale of any remaining timber that didn’t meet the required quality”, Schlox wrote.

Cunningham Lindsay said that “by taking a proactive approach and acting as the central co-ordination point for all interested parties in the cargo claim, we achieved mutual agreement to salvage the timber and deliver a positive result for everyone”. https://d1i5tcd1cit0wm.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/06/05132536/MCL-Review-2017.pdf