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Russia's Marine Rescue Service Arrests Tanker for Fire Response Costs

ahmet telli tanker on fire
Courtesy Rosmorport

Published Jul 27, 2022 10:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Turkish chemical tanker Ahmet Telli caught fire earlier this month at the Russian port of Temryuk, and she has now been arrested for failure to pay the Russian government for salvage costs, according to local Russian outlet Kuban News. 

On July 9, the Ahmet Telli arrived at Temryuk and transited into the inner port. Once within the complex, a fire broke out in her engine room. The blaze disabled the main engine, leaving the vessel adrift. As the fire grew, it became clear that it would be necessary to move the vessel out of the port because of the hazard to nearby facilities.

Under the direction of the vessel's pilot, harbor tugs towed the still-burning tanker to the outer anchorage. Once the ship was safely outside the port, the fire was extinguished by the local branch of the Federal Ministry of Transport's Marine Rescue Agency (Morspasluzhba).

Morspasluzhba claims that it maintained a fire watch and monitored the safety of the Telli for nearly two weeks after the fire, according to Kuban News. When all was completed, Morsplasluzhba presented the ship's agent with a bill for $870,000 for services rendered. The agent did not pay, according to the complaint, and so Morspasluzhba applied to the court to arrest the Telli in order to enforce payment. 

This is not the first time that the Marine Rescue Service has tried to arrest a vessel to collect on a disputed charge. In 2020, the freighter Vasily Shukshin lost power off Russia's Far East coast with a load of radioactive uranium on board, and the Marine Rescue Service responded to avert a disaster - but not for free. The owner of the Shukshin had to sign a Lloyd's Open Form (LOF) salvage contract with the service, the same standard form used for a private salvor. After the emergency response was over, Morspasluzhba attempted to charge and collect on a $500,000 bill.