Mitsui OSK Lines has announced it will withdraw six containerships from service to upgrade their hull structures as precautionary measures, after sister vessel MOL Comfort split during heavy weather off Yemen 10 days ago.
The move comes after MOL, the vessels’ shipbuilder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and class society ClassNK carried out initial inspections of the ships and began operational precautions to reduce the stress on their hulls.
According to a MOL statement, the six ships sufficiently fill the safety standard required by ClassNK in compliance with the International Association of Classification Societies, but the upgrades are meant to enhance the strength of the hulls “twice as much” as the safety standard.
The Japanese carrier said it was not yet certain how long the upgrades would take and when the ships would be back in service.
The six vessels, all operated by MOL on G6 services, include MOL Creation, MOL Charisma, MOL Celebration, MOL Courage and MOL Competence. All five are 8,110 teu, 86,692 gt vessels built with Sulzer engines in 2007-2008, the same as MOL Comfort.
The sixth ship is MOL Commitment, a vessel delivered earlier this year. It has a similar design to the other five, but can carry 8,540 teu of boxes nominally and uses a B&W engine.
On the LP1 service, MOL Courage had already been phased out on Sunday; MOL Creation will be phased out on July 4 and MOL Charisma on July 19. MOL Commitment, on the CEC service, will be offline after July 28. On the EUM service, MOL Celebration will be out on July 10.
The 5,605 teu MOL Glide will phase in for MOL Commitment, and the 6,724 teu MOL Maestro will take the position of MOL Celebration.
The carrier will release further details on MOL Competence and other replacement matters later.
On June 17, MOL Comfort split 200 miles off the coast of Yemen.
At 1800 hrs Dubai time on Wednesday, the forepart was located near 015°52’N 068°53’E and the afterpart was drifting near 014°13’N 066°04’E in an east-northeast direction.
MOL Comfort’s afterpart is “rolling heavily in adverse weather”, according to the carrier, which reported that “ingressing water in the cargo hold and the loss of containers on deck are progressing”.
Oil film has been seen around this section, whose towing operation has not started.
The fore section is being towed stably with the majority of cargo on board to the Middle East Gulf.
Smit and Nippon Salvage have been appointed as salvors.
Boxship’s stern section sinks
MOL has reported that the aft section of MOL Comfort sank in open sea on Thursday morning in 4,000 m of water near 014°26’N 066°26’E at around 1148 hrs local time.
MOL said that about 1,700 containers were lost with the section, although some boxes were confirmed floating near the site.
There was approximately 1,500 tonnes of heavy fuel oil in the tanks of the aft section but MOL said that there was no large spillage of oil visible.
Meanwhile, the stricken 8,110 teu ship’s bow section is still under tow towards a refuge port and is said to be “stable”.