Disaster Nearly Strikes As Very Large Petrol Tanker Docks In Cook Islands

Largest vessel to dock in Avatiu just 2 meters under maximum allowable length

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 6, 2016) – A maritime expert has branded yesterday’s docking of a large petrol tanker “dangerous” and “unbelievable”.

Tapi Taio, of Taio Shipping, said the vessel, and the port, came within seconds of a disaster when a rope snapped underneath the vessel close to the propeller.

The 118m Mekongtrans 01 is only two metres under the maximum allowable length for a ship docking in Avatiu.

Taio said he’d been on the wharf for more than 22 years. “We’ve seen boats come and go, but this is the biggest we’ve ever seen. “Don’t mind it being the maximum length if it is a cargo boat … but a fuel boat?  Pheww,” he whistled.

It took more than an hour to bring the Mekongtrans 01 alongside the dock and that involved it manouevring it across the harbour and the tugboat Toa then nudging it slowly around.

The fuel tanker dwarfed the Toa, the ocean-going vaka Marumaru Atua – which was patiently waiting to leave on a short trip down to Avana, the police patrol boat Te Kukupa and even the interisland freighter Tiare Taporo.

Taio said it was a risk bringing such a large vessel – particularly one with such a dangerous cargo – inside the harbour.

“It’s a fine day today. If it had been a bit of a rough day they couldn’t have controlled this boat. It’s full of fuel, I don’t know how many thousands of tonnes of fuel.”

At one stage a cable helping to control the tanker became caught underneath its stern, near the propeller, snapped bringing shouts of alarm from the people watching around the wharf area. Taio let out an audible warning.

When the danger eased, he relaxed.

“For a few seconds he (the ship’s captain) was sitting on his own without the rope. If it had hit the dock, the tremendous weight inside the ship because of the fuel, would have squashed in, making a dent and the fuel would have been pouring out. They wouldn’t have been able to control it.

“It would be a big disaster.”

Taio said: “They need to look at this again. This is the best day for weather, but we don’t normally get that in this harbour. The wind was in the right direction pushing against the boat. If it had been coming the other way -pushing it in, it would have been out of control.”

 “It would be ending up on my ships. Very dangerous.”

If the fuel had leaked in the water he said it would have destroyed sea creatures and the environment.

“This thing could wipe out the whole island. And, of course there is the danger of an explosion.”

Taio called on authorities to check safety equipment on the vessel. “It doesn’t have a bow thruster that helps to control it,” he said. “And they don’t have a gun to shoot the rope ashore. He was trying to throw the rope the old-fashioned way.

“If that rope had got stuck in the propeller – that’s it! Finish.

“That was unbelievable. She’s lucky.”

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2016 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

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