73,000 Tonne Coal Shipment Stuck Out At Sea
By Dinouk Colombage
Delays on the part of the Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) and Mercator Shipping Company have resulted in a 73,000 tonne coal shipment from Indonesia being stuck out in the Indian Ocean.
Lanka Coal Company (LCC) entered into a contract with CSC and Mercator for the shipping of coal from Indonesia to Puttlam.
In March this year Mercator was delayed in providing a vessel to the supplier during the laycan (shipping period nominated by the supplier of the coal). Kanchana Ratwatte, CEO of Ceylon Shipping Corporation, explained that the suppliers were delayed in providing the laycan, which in turn delayed the transporting of the coal. “Mercator was not late in providing a vessel, rather the suppliers delayed providing the laycan which led to the dates coinciding with the poor weather,” he said. However, conflicting reports state that in fact Mercator was unable to provide a ship till 15 days after the laycan. This delay has been attributed to the ship undergoing repairs in a dockyard in China. Ratwatte denied any knowledge of this. He did, however, admit that there had been a delay in their previous shipment due to an error on the part of Mercator.
He went on to explain that they are now currently looking at all possible options of removing the cargo from the vessel. “The inclement weather has prevented us from unloading as originally planned, in fact two of the workers were injured due to the bad weather,” Ratwatte said.
Ratwatte went on to say that amongst the options being explored there were also looking at shipping the cargo to a third party country and returning when the weather improves. “We are currently negotiating with two companies to allow us to send the shipment over there,” he added that he could not reveal the name of those companies as no agreement had been reached. With 73,000 tonnes of coal sitting in a cargo vessel there is an inherent fire hazard, Ratwatte denied that this was an immediate concern explaining, “we are constantly dozing the coal with cold water.” He went on to admit that if the vessel continues to lie loaded in the sea the risk of a fire could become real.
The lack of contingencies on the part of CSC and Mercator has been highlighted in this instance with neither company having a clear strategy. Of the several options already explored one was the possibility of re-routing the vessel to Trincomalee and transporting all 73,000 tonnes to Puttlam by road, this was scrapped due to the high cost that would accompany such a venture. Ratwatte denied that they did not have a contingency plan in place explaining that the inclement weather had played a large role, he however did not elaborate on whether there was a plan in place for poor weather. Ratwatte refused to comment on whether the contract between LCC and Mercator would be cancelled following this debacle, explaining that “their contract runs out at the end of the year”. He also added that there was no risk of a coal shortage in the country with the delay of this shipment, as the country stocks would last to the end of the year. LCC Chairman, Tissa Herath, explained that they were still calculating the costs that will be incurred by the delay and could not place a figure on it. He supported Ratwatte’s comments that they were exploring numerous options of how to unload the cargo while adding, “If the weather improves tomorrow we will immediately unload it”. He however, refused to speculate on when they hoped to have the cargo in their possession.