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Maldives Refloats Grounded Bulker, Demands Deposit of $6.5M for Damage

bulker refloated after grounding in the Maldives
Refloating operation on August 29 (Maldives National Defence Force)

Published Aug 30, 2021 6:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvage teams working in the Maldives were able to refloat a Navios Maritime Holdings’ bulker that went aground 10 days ago. The vessel, however, remains at anchor while it is being inspected and the Maldives is detaining the Panama-flagged vessel demanding compensation from the owners for damages caused to the reef.

The authorities in the Maldives are also making accusations against the captain. In addition to holding the ship responsible for damages caused to the reef, they contend that the captain acted improperly and failed to notify the coast guard of possible danger.

The 58,735 dwt Navios Amaryllis was traveling from India to South Africa in ballast to load its next cargo when the vessel reportedly blacked out on August 18. The local authorities told the press that they believe the ship’s main engine overheated causing it to shut down the day prior to grounding. The bulker drifted for several hours while the engineers attempted repairs, but they said at no time did the vessel report its problem to the coast guard.

The Transport Ministry’s Deputy Minister Hamadh Abdul Ghanee said during a briefing to the press that it was the captain’s responsibility to report the danger. Furthermore, they questioned why the vessel did not anchor before going on to the reef.  

The Navios Amaryllis drifted on to the reef on August 19. Since then, an operation has been underway with a dredger helping to clear the vessel and two tugboats came from Sri Lanka to assist with the refloating operation. The authorities initially reported that they would attempt to refloat the bulker on September 1, but the preparations were completed on August 29 and conditions were good to attempt to pull the vessel free. The Navios Amaryllis came free mid-afternoon and was moved into a safe anchorage. Before attempting the refloating, the ship also repositioned the oil in its tanks to reduce the danger of a leak from the refloating.

Officials in the Maldives, however, said the bulker will not be permitted to depart until they can complete a full survey of the reef to determine the extent of the damage. They said a preliminary visual inspection from above showed significant reef damage. However, the full extent will not be known until divers could be sent down after the vessel was refloated.

“The captain of the cargo boat played a huge role in the damage done to the reefs,” the minister told the local media. The Maldives offered to release the Navios Amaryllis if the owners would make a deposit of approximately $6.5 million against the damage to the reef. The Maldives has precedence in claiming compensation for reef damage. In 2016, they were successful in receiving payments after a Vietnamese vessel also grounded damaging a portion of the reef.