15.05.2008 - Owners feed on Barcelona crisis

Shipping water to the Spanish city is good business for tanker players.


Tanker owners are taking a big slice of the approximately $100m cost of importing huge volumes of water to the drought-stricken Spanish city of Barcelona.

A fleet of mainly modern chemical/products tankers managed by Interorient of Cyprus, NSB Niederelbe of Germany, Dileton Maritime of Greece and Fleet Management of Hong Kong have been chartered for the operation.

Contracts cover initially three months but could be extended if the city's worst drought in decades continues into August.

Vessels chartered by the regional Catalonia government include the 20,000-dwt Sichem Defender (built 2006), which arrived this week with around 20,000 cbm of water from Tarragona, some 56 nautical miles away and four hours sailing.

It and a Fleet Management sistership, the 19,800-dwt Sichem Contester (built 2007), have been fixed for a combined35 journeys between the two locations.

The four other tankers will haul water the 198 nautical miles from Marseilles in France, a journey of around 14 hours.

Dileton's 52,800-dwt Doroussa (built 1982) has been fixed for an average 5.5 journeys per month, NSB Niederelbe's 37,000-dwt Conti Alguhas (built 2008) for an average 5.8 journeys per month and Interorient's 40,400-dwt Norient Solar (built 2008) for an average eight journeys per month.

The other vessel chartered for the Marseilles-Barcelona run is the 32,300-dwt Stolt Courage (built 2004), which is in the fleet of Victoria Ship Management of Manila.

Discharge of water will be into a 1.5-metre diameter pipe at Barcelona port, from where it will be pumped to Cornella for distribution.

A Catalonia government spokeswoman tells TradeWinds that importing the water is costing EUR 22m ($34m) per month. It would have been higher but for discounts under Spanish law of EUR 1.1m per month including port fees.

The bill includes chartering the tankers, the cost of the water (both potable and from rivers), analysis at origin and during shipment, as well as other charges. The cost of fixing the individual tankers was at TradeWinds's press time not available but it forms a large proportion of the overall figure.

In total, around 1.66 million cbm of water will be carried during the three months. Chartering tankers beyond the three months will be considered unless there is more rain, says the Catalonia government. August is typically the driest month.

Although it rained heavily last weekend, reservoirs in Catalonia are said to have risen only 1.7%. To tackle the problem, six desalination plants have been built and another is to open near Barcelona in May 2009.

Shipments from a desalination plant in Almeria, on the south coast, are planned in August.

Water delivered by the Sichem Defender this week was only expected to supply 180,000 people for one day.

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