We should thank the men and women who salvaged the Chem P tanker.

This is one proud moment for the Malta Maritime Forum (MMF) to take a step forward and salute all those involved in the salvage operation on the chemical tanker Chem P, particularly Tug Malta and its crew members who, through their determined and brave actions, last weekend, managed to avert disaster for the vessel, its crew and, potentially, Malta’s eastern coastline. In fact, the salvage operation is ongoing.

The MMF is on a constant mission to bring the maritime industry to the fore in an unfortunate scenario where it is taken for granted all too often by all of those who overlook the dangers, personal sacrifices and health risks of sea-faring personnel, not to mention logistic hurdles, regulatory challenges, financial risk and climate-change targets for shipowners and the rest of the corporate players in the industry.

So this is a time when we should all take a moment to remember that there are investors and personnel staff out there who are prepared to go out of their way, putting their lives on the line to respond to the type of emergency that afflicted the 209-metre chemical tanker that lost control in the gale force easterly wind and found itself drifting towards perilous proximity of the Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq coastline over the weekend.

This situation, of course, posed imminent danger to the lives of 20 crew members on board the Chem P, the integrity of the ship itself as well as the potential pollution hazard arising from the chemical residue in the empty hold of the tanker and 300-odd tonnes reserve of gas oil fuel reportedly on board.

Due merit is also due to Harbour Master, Capt. David Bugeja, for his able coordination of the operation from Transport Malta HQ. In the words of Bugeja himself, when speaking to Times of Malta, two tugboats were soon on the scene, fighting frantically to get the vessel tied to their lines and keep it from veering closer to the rocks.

“If no action had been taken, we could have, unfortunately, seen the possibility of the vessel becoming grounded and even perhaps the loss of life, the 20 souls on that ship,” he said.

The MMF was also inspired by another public acknowledgement of Tug Malta and its brave crew members for their ordeal with the unforgiving sea weather conditions to save the Chem P.

Neil Agius, who is no stranger to extreme sea challenges himself, was reported on Lovin Malta to praise the 13 Tug Malta men involved in the delicate operation, pushing their limits to keep Malta safe from a potential tragedy at sea.

“While most of us watched from the comfort of our own homes, these men risked their safety and I have no doubt pushed passed their limits,” he said. “In my eyes, they are heroes and deserve every bit of praise.”

Such public acclamation is most encouraging to the MMF as the prime representative of the maritime industry. It is a clear reflection of the faith placed by the authorities and the public at large who are safe in the knowledge, as they should be, that, in the moment of truth, the country is armed with a young fleet of state-of-the-art vessels and a group of professional crew members that combine to face any challenge that a rescue or environmental operation may put them through.

The MMF, therefore, proudly applauds its member Tug Malta, its leadership and its brave and professional staff for showing the country they are on top of things when put to the call.

The MMF salutes Tug Malta which, through its parent company, Rimorchiatori Riuniti Group, has consistently invested wisely in its assets routinely engaged in salvage services and harbour and offshore towing services on a daily basis, as well as in its exceptional human resources and the continuous programme of training. Such training is essential to ensure that, when applying their innate bravery, the crew is always able to address any situation which may potentially be placed upon them and the country.

The MMF has nothing but thanks and praise to bestow on the brave and professional team at Tug Malta and augurs that the instances in which their selfless courage and professional talents are put to the test are few and far between.

Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon is the Chairman of the Malta Maritime Forum.

This article appeared in the Times of Malta on 26 March 2022

Karin Grech
Author: Karin Grech