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Feature Article

Salvage Project a Success With Patience and Innovation

By Jenifer Kimble

TITAN Salvage successfully removed the wreck, restoring the unobstructed sunrise views to beachgoers and coastal residents of San Antonio, Chile.

When Mother Nature takes the helm of a ship and sends it bobbing out of control in a frothy sea, the resulting casualty typically requires a remedy that is no match for the average marine salvage company. Such was the case on a stormy morning in August 2013, as a partially laden, 52,289-ton, Hong Kong-flagged, bulk carrier approached the harbor entrance to the port of San Antonio, Chile, en route from Panama, and dropped anchor to await calmer seas. However, the anchor was helpless against the angry seas and quickly began to drag. The crew had no choice but to cut it loose, sending the ship on an unguided detour 1.5 miles south, where it became stuck fast in the offshore sands battered by the surf at Llolleo Beach.

Before the vessel began its wild, helpless ride, with wind and waves violently pushing it towards its resting place some 300 yards offshore, Chilean Navy helicopters swarmed above and rescued the ship's crew of 24, none of whom were seriously injured. With severe bottom damage, some flooding in the cargo holds and breached ballast tanks, there it sat, helplessly awaiting its own rescue.

Understanding the severity of the wreck and the need to preserve its perishable cargo consisting of wheat and soy beans, the first urgent attempt at refloating was undertaken, but unfortunately ended shortly thereafter with no success, forcing a declarative total loss of both the vessel and its partially submerged cargo. After two months of teetering in the break, the owners, along with their insurers, opened talks for competitive bids from salvors that could preserve and remove the remaining 34,000 tons of rotting grain cargo and pull the wrecked vessel from the Pacific Ocean beach.

Enter TITAN Salvage
Because of their vast experience, longevity in the salvage world and impressive portfolio, TITAN (Houston, Texas) and partner T&T Salvage (Humble, Texas) joined together to submit the winning bid, and shortly thereafter, the challenges began. For starters, the only access to the casualty was from a narrow beach 300 meters away, divided from the work site by a constantly shifting seabed. In fact, throughout the project, the mouth of a nearby river kept shifting until the salvors' staging point was completely inundated.

'Access to the wreck was very limited,' noted Gordon Amos, TITAN's project manager. 'Nothing bigger than a rubber boat could get alongside, and it was often dangerous because of the almost constant presence of high-ocean swell and breaking surf. Not only did the 34,000 tons of cargo have to be brought ashore under these circumstances, but all of the portable salvage equipment, including hydraulic chain pullers, each weighing in excess of 10 tons, together with hundreds of meters of heavy chain, large-capacity generators and power packs, had to be placed aboard. It also meant that the team on board could not readily get on or off and consequently spent several months working long hours under less than ideal conditions.'

Despite the challenges'and there always are some'the basic method employed by the salvage team was to simply discharge the cargo to the beach by use of the cranes aboard the wrecked ship, then refloat, tow to deeper waters, scuttle (sink) and scrap the irreparable bulk carrier.

They also used a patented aerial t'l'ph'rique, or cable carriage, set up between a crane pedestal on the wreck and a 500-tonne crawler crane tower erected ashore'the same, shifting shore 300 meters away. This télélphélrique system served TITAN well during the 2008 salvage of the New Carissa freighter that ran aground on a beach near Coos Bay, Oregon, and undoubtedly proved its weight in gold south of the equator. To continue this article please click here.

As an accomplished business writer, Jenifer Kimble has more than 15 years of experience in public relations and corporate communications across various industries. Before putting her skills and experience to use on a freelance basis, she spent eight years as senior editor for Crowley Maritime Corp. She has also served as marketing and communications manager for an international lottery products and services provider, public relations director for an advertising and public relations agency, and marketing director for a regional real estate firm.

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