Salvaged Ro/Ro Modern Express Reaches Turkey

The tow of the Modern Express getting underway in Bilbao (courtesy Albors Galiano)

Published Oct 11, 2016 8:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

The damaged ro/ro Modern Express has arrived at Aliaga, Turkey, where she will likely be scrapped. 

In late January, the Panama-flagged, 10,000 dwt Modern Express was under way from Gabon to Le Havre with cargo of "3,600 tons of wood in bundles and a dozen pieces of heavy machinery." She began to list over some 130 nm off Cape Ortegal, Galicia, in the Bay of Biscay, and transmitted a distress signal. Her 22 crewmembers were evacuated by Spanish authorities, who provided three helicopters to lift them off her steeply inclined deck. Over a period of a week, she drifted into French waters and came within 25 nautical miles of running aground. Salvors with SMIT successfully established a tow line just in time, after several attempts failed in bad weather, and brought her into Bilbao. She was righted and unloaded at the pier. 

Authorities permitted her to enter Bilbao as a harbor of refuge; observers noted that this was a marked contrast to the incident of the tanker Prestige in 2002: the damaged crude carrier spilled oil and sank at sea after Spanish authorities refused to allow her to enter a port – creating the largest environmental disaster in Spain's history and spurring new laws requiring the availability of safe harbors.

Early reports indicated that the Express would be scrapped. Some suggest she could be repaired and returned to service, but her presence Tuesday at an anchorage just off Aliaga's shipbreaking yards does not reflect this possibility. 

Spanish and Panamanian (flag state) authorities are still investigating the incident to determine the cause. Local media report that among other factors, investigators found that 3,000 tonnes of timber listed on her cargo manifest actually weighed only 1,000 tonnes, making her center of gravity higher than calculated with her declared load – and countering the theory that the list was the result of a cargo shift.