Mediterranean Shipping said Wednesday it is awaiting word from Rena vessel owner Costamare and a salvage company as the shipowner’s insurer said it would meet all obligations in the maritime disaster off the coast of New Zealand.
The Swedish Club, the insurance company for Rena owner and operator Costamare, issued a statement saying the carrier’s “obligations will be met in full.”
Costamare did not return requests for comment on questions of liability and potential cargo claims from the Oct. 5 disaster that came when the container ship ran aground on a reef about 15 miles off the coast of New Zealand.
MSC, which had chartered the vessel, said it was waiting to hear from Costamare and the salvage company before it could address questions from its customers.
“Right now, a very complicated salvage process is under way and we can do nothing until that process is completed and we receive word,” said Allen Clifford, an executive vice president at MSC (USA). “Everything is in the complete hands of the salvors and Costamare.”
Shipper claims for losses from the ship disaster will fall into the complicated world of international maritime law and industry attorneys say compensation beyond any shipper’s cargo insurance likely would be limited unless there are specific provisions.
The questions over liability and loss of cargo are coming around the world as crews off the coast of New Zealand work to unload fuel oil from the container ship, which ran aground on a reef Oct. 5. It has been sitting precariously there since then, spilling oil and losing some containers overboard as ocean currents and bad weather threaten to break the ship apart.
The salvage company, Svitzer Salvage, is owned by A.P. Moller-Maersk.
Costamare was operating the Rena, a 21-year-old vessel with capacity for 3,032 TEUs, for MSC on a five-year charter at a rate of $15,000 a day, according to financial record of the New York Stock Exchange-listed ship charter company.
As the owner and operator of the ship, it would be up to Costamare to declare force majeure, which would limit the carrier’s liability, or general average, which could impose costs on all shippers with boxes on the vessel.
The captain of the Rena was arrested in New Zealand after the incident, however, making it highly unlikely the operator could claim a natural disaster.
MSC, meanwhile, has donated $800,000 toward the cleanup of New Zealand’s worst-ever environmental disaster. The company stressed it made the donation “in terms of solidarity with the shipping community.”