Speculation grows over Margaret Hill conversion plan.
CONTROVERSY concerning the liquefied natural gas carrier Margaret Hill, currently anchored off Dubai, appears to have taken a new twist with the ship apparently sold to a cash buyer for demolition in India.
Lloyd"s List has been advised that the 1974-built, 87,608 cu m vessel has now been sold, although brokers contacted by Lloyd"s List could not confirm that a sale had taken place.
The vessel was sold in early 2007 by Hoegh LNG, to Maverick LNG Holdings in the US, when it changed name from Hoegh Galleon to Margaret Hill.
Maverick said it intended to convert the ship for a LNG liquefaction project in Kitimat, British Columbia. The work was to be undertaken by Drydocks World in Dubai, where the ship was to sail on leaving Southampton.
However, the project for which the Margaret Hill was initially earmarked was subsequently taken on by Teekay, which plans to convert its own 1993-built LNG carrier Arctic Spirit for the project.
Since then, Margaret Hill has been anchored off Dubai for a month, with no sign of any conversion work being imminent.
Moreover, a spokeswoman for Drydocks World in Dubai told Lloyd"s List: ?We have not entered any kind of contract and are not involved in any negotiations with owners.?
Last August the UK Environment Agency prevented Margaret Hill from sailing from Southampton, where it was laid up. At the time, the agency was concerned over potential hazardous material on board.
International regulations state that ships containing hazardous materials can only be sold for breaking in authorised facilities in European Union or Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.
In late October the Agency lifted its Stop Notice when it was satisfied by assurances that the ship was to be converted for a floating liquefied natural gas project. The vessel eventually sailed from Southampton on December 9 and arrived off Jebel Ali in January. At present it is still anchored there.
The Environment Agency said that it was satisfied that the owner, New York-based Fortress Credit, was planning to undertake conversion of the vessel. US contractor Waller Marine was engaged as engineering consultant for the project.
The agency said it received certificates and evidence of agreed deposits and a Memorandum of Agreement and on that basis no longer had grounds to hold the vessel. But it acknowledged that once the ship had left the UK there was nothing it could do if further transactions took place.
Margaret Hill carried its last LNG cargo in 2007 then spent several months idle in Spain before being laid up in Southampton in November 2008. In mid-2009 it was acquired by its mortgagee, Fortress Credit, whose efforts at that time to sell the ship for demolition were thwarted by the UK Environment Agency.
V. Ships (UK), which has been technical shipmanager for Margaret Hill since 2007, said that it was instructed by the owner to deliver the ship to Dubai for conversion and that remained the position. It has received no further information or instructions from the owner.
At the time of going to press Fortress had not confirmed to Lloyd"s List whether or not the vessel had been sold.