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Listing Ro/Ro Modern Express Righted

Bilbao
Modern Express entering Bilbao (courtesy Audrey Alos / Twitter)

By MarEx 2016-02-22 20:27:40

The listing ro/ro Modern Express, which was rescued by salvors in the Bay of Biscay and taken to the port of Bilbao, has been righted. Work began February 6, when she was listing to starboard at about 51 degrees, and her list was reduced to 26 degrees by February 18. She was fully upright as of noon local time on Monday.

The cause of the severe list has not yet been released. However, local paper El Correo reports that the vessel will be returned to her owners, European Roro Lines, which will have to decide whether to unload the cargo early or to continue on with her intended journey.

Before departure, however, her systems will have to be checked for any damage due to the prolonged period of operation and tow at severe angles of list.

The listing Express issued a distress signal at a position some 130 nm off Cape Ortegal, Galicia, in the British zone of SAR responsibility for the Bay of Biscay. The initial response was carried out by Spanish authorities, who safely evacuated her 22-man crew by helicopter on January 26. On February 1, a team from SMIT Salvage boarded her and ran a tow line to the tug Centaurus, saving her from grounding on the French coastline. She was brought to Bilbao under escort by the offshore supply vessel / tug Ria de Vigo and the spill response vessel Argonaute. At the harbor entrance, additional towing vessels joined her for docking, and a team of eight salvors boarded her to handle lines. Video of tugs bringing her into the Port of Bilbao is available here.

The Panama-flagged, 10,000 dwt vessel was under way from Gabon to Le Havre with cargo of "3,600 tons of wood in bundles and a dozen pieces of heavy machinery" at the time that she began to list, French authorities said. She is owned by Cido Shipping and operated by European Roro Lines, a specialist in ro/ro cargo to West Africa from Northern Europe.

European media suggest that Bilbao may not have had the legal option to refuse entry to the Express. Under European Commission rules, a port of refuge must accept a vessel in distress under most circumstances: "unless it is considered dangerous, [the ship] cannot be rejected without inspection. The State receiving a request for a place of refuge may not refuse for purely commercial . . . financial or insurance [reasons].”

Regulations regarding ports of refuge have been strengthened in the E.U. several times since the well-known incidents of the tanker Erika in 1999 and the tanker Prestige in 2002.