The vessel “Castor” was on a laden voyage carrying a cargo of 39,000 mt of unleaded gasoline from Costanza to Lagos, Nigeria. On 31st December, during storm weather, the vessel developed a 20-meter crack in her main deck in way of cargo tanks No4. Her position at the time was off the Moroccan Coast. Morocco ordered the ship to stay 40 miles away from their coast.
On the 3rd of January 2001 the ship owners contacted Tsavliris for assistance and a LOF was signed the same day. Tsavliris, having the very large salvage tug “Nikolay Chiker” in the area instructed her to proceed full speed in order to meet the M/T “Castor”. Following the instructions of the Moroccan Authorities “Nikolay Chiker” escorted/towed the vessel by stern 40 miles off the coast of Morocco. Next day, on the 4th of January, tug and tow entered Spanish responsibility SAR area in order to seek some shelter to restore the vessel to a more or less safe condition. After inspection of the casualty by the Spanish Authorities, the crew was instructed to abandon the vessel, and the Spanish Authorities ordered the convoy to maintain a minimum distance of 30nm from the Spanish coast. The same policy was also maintained by the Gibraltar Authorities.
On the same day, the 4th of January, Tsavliris time-chartered the Spanish salvage tug “Golfo de Bengala” to proceed from Cartagena to assist the “Nikolay Chiker”, while Tsavlris salvage tug ‘Megas Alexandros” was fully loaded with salvage equipment and sailed from Piraeus to meet the “Castor”, followed a few days later by the company’s salvage tug “Atlas”.
Salvage teams and equipment were also mobilized right away from Greece and Holland to attend the casualty, consisting of a salvage master, salvage officer, salvage engineer, marine chemist, engineers, electricians and salvage assistants. The team was placed onboard the casualty, and on the 8th of January managed to seal the crack with a combination of polyurethane foam and silicon paste so as to create an elastic sealing on the crack and to prevent the tank from “breathing”. Gas concentrations were continuously monitored by the chemist and a few days later, two inert gas installations were placed on board the ship and the vapor spaces of all tanks were inerted to eliminate the danger of explosion. The salvage team prepared a plan for an STS operation to discharge the vessel, supported by 135 pages of salvage plans and supporting calculations, which were agreed to by the Salvage Association and ABS. However, the technical merits of such plan were never discussed by coastal states, which, on purely political grounds, refused the operation to be performed within their 30-mile limit. After refusal coming from Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Malta and Algeria, it was decided that the operation will take place in the open sea and the two lightering tankers, namely the Yapi (30,000 dwt) and the Giovanna (6,500 dwt) were hired by the salvor to join the convoy.