Kalliopi RC, a mechanical refugee at Le Havre

11 Mar 2016

Kalliopi RC, ex Hoechst Express, is the fourth in the series of 8 Samsung 4600 container ships. They were built between 1991-1994 for the German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd. At that time, with a length of 294m, they seemed gigantic. In March 2015, Hapag-Lloyd, the 6th biggest container shipping line gets rid of its oldest units. Two Samsung 4600 are immediately sent to China to be demolished. The six surviving sisterships got some extra time. The Stuttgart Express is still sailing as MSC Roberta. The other five were bought by the German ship-owner König & Cie Gmbh & Co Kg.

After a few more month in operation, König is now eliminating them: the HH Nikol C (ex-Boston Express, ex-Essen Express), HH Emilia (ex-Dresden Express) and Dimitrios C (ex-Atlanta Express, ex-Ludwigshafen Express) were beached in Alang in December 2015, February 2016 and March 2016. HH Johanna (ex-Portland Express, ex-Leverkusen Express) was docked at Valencia, Spain. On February 14, one of her mooring lines broke and she hit the nearby Cosco Europe. She left Valencia on February 20th and is now crossing the Suez Canal. It is very likely that she will head towards Alang.

As for the Kalliopi RC, she is also at the end of her career. She is 25 year-old. The average age of the container ships that were scrapped in 2015 was 22 . Her maintenance raises some questions. In April 2015, she was chartered by MSC and detained for the first time of her career in Piraeus (Greece). It took ten days to repair her engine, to clean machinery space, and to bring the fire safety equipment in compliance with regulations. On February 5th, 2016, there was another warning shot from maritime safety inspectors. Thirteen deficiencies were listed, of which 5 were related to the main and auxiliary engines, two to fire safety, one to the electric equipment in general, and one to the rescue boats. 12 days after, despite repair works, another inspection listed another 5 deficiencies. At the end of February, the crew was replaced.

March 1st, 2016. Kalliopi RC sailed in the evening in spite of bad weather forecasts. She was empty and departed Le Havre and Quai de Bougainville heading for Piraeus, Greece as official destination. The newspaper Paris Normandie reports that, based on some trustworthy unofficial sources, Kalliopi RC has been purchased by GMS, a broker specialized in buying up old vessels. Shortly after leaving through the port’s exit channel, Kalliopi RC suffered 2 total power blackouts. She was able to restart and resume sailing. A third black out in the Seine’s estuary forced her to drop anchor, which did not prevent her from drifting, silenced for a whole hour due to a radio failure.

In the afternoon of March 2nd, by order of French maritime Authorities in the Channel and North Sea , she was taken in tow by the Abeille Liberté just arrived from Cherbourg and was moved to safety in Le Havre, at the Quai de l’Asie close to the oil terminal. The Port of Le Havre announced on its website that the vessel was going to leave on March 13th, this time bound for Rotterdam, surely a fictitious destination in order to cover up her tracks. It is the new owner’s interest to pretend to continue the vessel’s operation. The European Authorities in charge of maritime safety, especially the French Maritime Authority for the Atlantic coast, should not fall into this trap.

There are only three credible scenarios:

-Demolition in Northern Europe

-Depart on her own power towards a shipbreaking yard, given that all the guarantees of safety are presented

-Depart from Le Havre in tow, given that all the guarantees of safety are presented by the convoy as well.

 However, were the Kalliopi RC to be beached in Asia in a few weeks – though currently docked at Le Havre- it will be a new proof of Europe’s negligence on the issue of ship demolition..

Kalliopi-RC_Le Havre-Robin des Bois
Mars 2, 2016, Kalliopi RC under tow to Le Havre after her black-out © Erwan Guéguéniat


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