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Abandoned LPG carrier had insurance and class revoked after Iran call

The Spanish-flagged liquefied petroleum gas carrier Celanova, abandoned with 15 crew off Manila, has had its class and insurance cut off for calling at Iran, insurer The American Club says

The owner of the LPG carrier, Globalgas, which claims to be bankrupt, says it has not been charged with any US sanctions violations

GLOBALGAS, the insolvent Spanish shipowner at the centre of a crew abandonment case, had its class and insurance cut off over accusations that it had breached Iranian sanctions.

Globalgas’ liquefied petroleum gas carrier Celanova lost its rudder in a storm in December as it sailed from Singapore to China, and was later towed to anchor 13 miles off Manila.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has since claimed Globalgas abandoned its 15 crew, who have not been paid since October.

However, it has now emerged that the 7,300 dwt vessel had previously entered Iranian waters in November last year — a move that ultimately prompted the American Club to withdraw cover. 

American Club chief legal officer Daniel Tadros confirmed to Lloyd’s List that the club retroactively terminated Celanova’s cover after it became aware the vessel “had called in Iran and was carrying a cargo of butadiene in contravention of US sanctions and the club’s rules”.

He added: “Because the American Club is a US-based company, once the origin of the cargo was confirmed, club cover terminated in all respects ab initio.”

Mr Tadros said Bureau Veritas suspended the vessel’s class on January 8, but the American Club was not aware of this until about January 22.

Bureau Veritas was not immediately able to confirm the details of the case.

Mr Tadros said the club had paid to tow the vessel to safety outside Manila, arranged repairs for its generators and provided other help to its master and crew.

Mr Tadros said it obtained permission from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to continue to help the vessel and crew, but the permission was conditioned on the cargo remaining on board.

When Globalgas arranged for the cargo to be transhipped to China, “the American Club was left with no powers to assist”.

“Only very recently, and purely for humanitarian reasons, the club has been allowed to provide necessary supplies and other services to the crew despite the fact that the club’s Maritime Labour Convention obligations had terminated as of February 8, 2020,” Mr Tadros said.

“The club has also agreed to assist with repatriation of the crew but, much like the ITF and other international organisations, has faced difficulties in obtaining permission for the vessel to berth in the port of Manila.”

Rodolfo Burgos Escudero, head of Globalgas, said: “We are a Spanish company, so we are not affected by US unilateral sanctions to any country and we are free to trade as per European Commission and Spanish regulations.”

Mr Burgos said the cargo was originally documented from Oman. He said all the documentation given by shippers was correct and accepted by receivers, “so there is not any fact that this cargo is [coming in] origin [from] Iran, which, by the way, should not be a problem”.

He said Celanova and Globalgas have not been charged with any US sanctions and that the American Club had not given any assistance to the crew based on MLC insurance and all supplies and services to the ship had been on Globalgas’ account.

“The only thing they have tried to do is to incite the crew to arrest the vessel when she was still loaded with cargo, with the risk to the environment and crew safety,” Mr Burgos said.

A US Treasury spokseman told Lloyd’s List: “We take allegations of sanctionable conduct seriously but we do not comment on the applicability of sanctions in individual circumstances, nor do we comment on possible or pending investigations.”

Lloyd’s List Intelligence shows the Celanova entered Iranian waters last year between November 4-8 on its way to Oman, and on August 22-29 on its way to Fujairah.

The ITF has said the 2003-built Celanova was detained by the Philippines Port State Control on February 14 for breach of the MLC over unpaid wages. It is negotiating with the Spanish and Filipino authorities about repatriating the crew.

Mr Burgos has said Globalgas declared voluntary insolvency on March 7 and he intended to disembark the crew when Manila’s coronavirus restrictions eased.

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