There are times in shipping when, for an unforeseen reason, a port call becomes a nightmare for the owner and the ship faces encumbrances that multiply with each day in the port. Such events are not premeditated and they can be quite unfortunate for the owners, who have to bear the costs of the delays and other financial losses.
J. M. Baxi & Co. undertook the agency of one such vessel in a series of unhappy occurrences that caused the owners losses in the form of delays in port and other misfortunes beyond their control.
The vessel, owned by a company based in Hamburg, Germany, arrived at Visakhapatnam (Vizag) on 13 June, 2019 to unload 10,800 MT of ammonium nitrate in jumbo bags under agents nominated by the charterers. The owners appointed J. M. Baxi & Co. to act as their protecting agent (OPA). However, the stay of the vessel extended for over two months at Vizag and she did not sail until 18 August, 2019. Initially, the long stay in the port was a result of an extended delay to secure a berth, as the covered warehouse was not available and the cargo could not be stored in an open port plot. The vessel had to stay at anchorage for over two weeks prior to getting a berth. During this time, they had an urgent requirement for freshwater and ship stores, which could not be replenished initially as the vessel had not been cleared by customs and the charterer’s agents were not willing to undertake the clearance at anchorage. Though J. M. Baxi & Co. was the OPA and the activity was not under our scope, we made a representation to customs, managed the vessel’s clearance and supplied freshwater and stores on board.
After berthing, there were incessant rains, which prevented the unloading operations. The hatch covers had to be moved, and one of them slipped out of its track and got badly damaged. Since this happened in the open position, the vessel required the assistance of a workshop. The owners wanted to get the repairs done under warranty in a dry dock. However, when its workshop team arrived in India to undertake the repairs, they only had tourist visas and so were not permitted to enter the port. As there were no other options, J. M. Baxi & Co. suggested the team to depart from India and re-enter with business e-visas. Although they would not normally be permitted to enter restricted areas with an e-visa, as a special request due to the difficult circumstances, the repair team was allowed to board the vessel and carry out the repairs.
During the repairs, Vizag Port Trust advised the vessel to shift to anchorage since there were no idle repair berths available. However, due to the conditions of class, as issued by DNV, the ship could not shift to anchorage as she was not seaworthy. This was a catch 22 situation for J. M. Baxi & Co., being their protecting agents, and a major challenge for the owners. J. M. Baxi & Co. eventually secured a berth at Visakha Container Terminal (VCT), its own terminal, even though VCT is a container terminal and gives priority to container carriers. VCT let the vessel berth as no container vessels were expected.
The owners, no doubt had a harrowing experience while the ship was in Vizag, but J. M. Baxi & Co. ensured that they never felt alone or without support in this foreign port. J. M. Baxi & Co. very promptly aided them wherever any situations arose, and provided solutions and a way forward. Despite the occasional outbursts, the owners realised and acknowledged that throughout the stay, J. M. Baxi & Co.’s entire team had upheld its humility and remained a pillar of support. The vessel and agent cheered together as the Blue Peter flag was finally hoisted.