Updated: June 23, 2021 9:49:29 am
A TENDER for charter hire of an oil vessel by ONGC has drawn criticism from the shipping industry for disregarding safety requirements. The tender allows companies that do not have statutory certificates, class certificates (certificate of stability) and insurance to bid for transport of diesel along the Indian coast, according to the tender documents floated by ONGC on May 11.
The tender document reviewed by The Indian Express states that all certification showing that the vessel is seaworthy should be valid on the date of an inspection, which will be carried out by a third party on behalf of ONGC after a ship is selected through the bidding process.
It does not have any clause specifying that a vessel should have the certificates before applying for the bid.
This essentially means that a vessel without having statutory certificates can also bid for the tender and obtain certificates after it gets the contract.
Sources said that ONGC has received bids from companies owning vessels that have been arrested for non-payment of dues to vendors or have been detained by Directorate General (DG) of Shipping for lack of maintenance at various ports, including the Kandla Port and Chennai, as recently as January 2021.
Experts said that this norm followed by ONGC and other Indian companies provides an entry to non-operational vessels, which are not seaworthy for transportation of petroleum products putting the environment and lives at risk.
“Vessels should have the statutory certificates and should be seaworthy before they bid for a tender and not after they are allocated the work. This will greatly improve the quality of bids that oil companies get when they float tenders and will also ensure that shipping companies do not push vessels, which are not seaworthy,” said Arpan Rajput, a maritime lawyer.
“Internationally, companies are not permitted to bid for such tenders if they do not have statutory certificates… Oil companies in India should tighten the norms and should not allow third-grade vessels to enter the system,” said Anil Devli, chief executive officer at Indian National Shipowners Association (INSA).
A spokesperson for ONGC said the company cannot comment on the issue as the tendering process is underway.
The procurement of the oil tanker vessel by ONGC assumes significance as the oil company was in the spotlight last month for the barge accident at Bombay High during Cyclone Tauktae that led to the death of 86 workers in the Arabian Sea and endangered the lives of hundreds more.
Following the accident, ONGC has suspended three senior officials, pending an inquiry by a high-level committee instituted by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas into the entire incident.
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