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Port condemns captain for Penelope

Date of publication: 17 July 2018 Printable version


Photograph: Iren Mayorova / Kommersant

NCSP prevails in an action against Yevgeny Tuzinkevich and Ministry of Transport.

Moscow Arbitration Court has backed Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port (NCSP, a JV of Transneft and Summa) in its dispute with the Ministry of Transport (Mintrans), the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot) and Yevgeny Tuzinkevich, the captain of the port of Novorossiysk. The stevedore blames the captain for the transport collapse in late January – early March this year, when the captain, according to NCSP, forced the local administration to moor the Penelope tanker (47.5% of it owned by Rosneft) despite the lack of loading capabilities, allowing other ships to make fast only after the mentioned tanker is handled. First-instance court declared the captain’s action unlawful, the Ministry of Transport now has 30 days to “eliminate the breaches”.  

Moscow Arbitration Court has declared unlawful the actions of Yevgeny Tuzinkevich, the captain of the port of Novorossiysk, following the NCSP lawsuit. This refers to an incident with the Penelope tanker owned by Prime Shipping (where Rosneft holds a 47.5% stake), RIA Novosti says. According to Interfax, the court rendered ineffective all actions and failure to act of the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport and the port’s captain as well as the captain’s orders about ship traffic and anchorage, including the ones related to Penelope. Yet the court declined NCSP’s claim of disciplinary action to be taken against the port’s captain. The court only obliged the Ministry of Transport to eliminate all breaches within 30 days, though the verdict can be appealed against. We failed to get any comments from Rosmorrechflot, the Ministry or NCSP.

The conflict between NCSP and the captain of the port of Novorossiysk came to light at the end of February, when Igor Demin, advisor to the President of Transneft, spoke about a collapse at one of NCSP’s petroleum products terminals caused by “the port captain’s voluntarism”. At the time, Transneft’s representatives assured that the port’s captain sought to ensure first-priority loading of the Penelope tanker, which was impossible “due to the ship owners’ representatives failing to present formalised freight documentation”. As a result, four tankers remained off the harbor since February, two others left for other ports, with 2,400 tank trucks amassed on access railways (see the 21 February issue of Kommersant). The Ministry of Transport, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport as well as the Prosecutor General’s Office and the FSB (Federal Security Service) of the Russian Federation were involved in that mess.

The Ministry of Transport declared on 22 February 2018 that loading of five tankers that got stuck in the port of Novorossiysk might resume within 3 days. They clarified at the Ministry back then that the loading problem had occurred at the beginning of the month in the wake of “temporary decommissioning of berths No. 26 and No. 27 by the owner (NCSP) and undue interaction between the terminal’s operators, the freight owner and the carrier”. The situation was further complicated by “sea severity that continued during a week”, noted officials from the Ministry of Transport. Penelope left the port in the beginning of March.  

In March, NCSP brought legal action against the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport and the captain of the port of Novorossiysk, demanding that the Agency’s inaction from 31 January to 1 March be declared illegal, having referred to Mr Tuzinkevich’s undue performance of his duties. Furthermore, the stevedore insisted on declaring illegal some of the captain’s orders related to the port’s ship traffic and anchorage schedule, freight handling and mooring operations, including those related to the Penelope tanker. Yet on 16 March the court dismissed NCSP’s claim.

At the end of March, the court registered a new suit from NCSP, with the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport and Yevgeny Tuzinkevich being the defendants. The Black Sea Maritime Ports Administration and Igor Pushko, Deputy Captain of the port of Novorossiysk, were involved as third parties. In its suit, NCSP insisted on the Ministry’s inaction on the premise that the Ministry of Transport did not monitor or repeal a number of orders made by Mr Tuzinkevich, who is an official at the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport. Among other things, the stevedore mentioned undue control by the Ministry of the ship traffic and anchorage schedule released by the captain. NCSP mentioned obstacles mounted for the port’s operations and obligations to cater to the Penelope tanker illegally laid upon the port’s administration by the captain, even though NCSP never gave its nod to the said operations. A Ministry’s official earlier stated during the trial that the claims against the Federal Agency were unwarranted, since the captain was an independent official per law.

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