TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP - News & Announcements

TSAVLIRIS refloats bulker after massive Indian Ocean cargo operation - 2004 Nov 08

The TSAVLIRIS SALVAGE GROUP has refloated a stranded bulk carrier in one of the most difficult and protracted salvage operations carried out in the Indian Ocean in recent times. Engaged under a Lloyd's Open Form contract, TSAVLIRIS has been assisting the handysized bulker "KEN EXPLORER" since mid-August when the vessel grounded in the Gulf of Khambat while on a voyage from Chile to the Indian ports Dahej and Tuticorin.


Two salvage tugs, "FAIRPLAY IX" and the TSAVLIRIS-operated "SB-408", were mobilized from Colombo to aid the casualty. Initial attempts to refloat the "KEN EXPLORER" proved unsuccessful, as the vessel remained hard aground, with severe damage sustained during the incident, including flooded of the double bottoms on starboard side and centre as well as four flooded cargo holds. By this stage the enormity of the salvage challenge was clear as the casualty site was exposed to the monsoon season and the nature of the cargo posed additional problems to be overcome. The vessel was loaded with more than 43,800 tonnes of copper concentrates, a commodity that is liquefiable if its moisture content rises sufficiently and potentially destabilizing to a ship where seawater enters the cargo spaces.


Deploying a bunker vessel engaged from the United Arab Emirates, TSAVLIRIS successfully removed all bunkers and oil waters aboard the bulker, including approximately 1,100 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. In addition two lightering vessels were hired, only for them to refuse to participate in the operation on the grounds of high risk from uncharted shallows, bad weather and the persistent threat posed by the cargo, which is capable of turning to slurry and causing a vessel to list sharply.


In spite of continuing interruptions from bad weather and strong local tides that made it difficult for barges to remain alongside, two further vessels - the 24,000 dwt "PATARA" and the 16,000 dwt "SHENG MU" - were brought in to act as storage vessels, while a tug/barge combination and a self-propelled barge acted as feeder vessels to transfer cargo. In addition to the flotilla of equipment assembled for the intensive services to the stricken bulker, a large team of personnel was gathered, including three salvage masters, two salvage engineers, a salvage officer, two salvage divers, 24 crewmen for stevedoring and operation of equipment, and the tug crews. Indicative of the conditions confronted by the team, considerable material damage was suffered during the provision of services.


Due to the weather and swell conditions, fenders and mooring ropes frequently broke and in one instance the parting of mooring lines resulted in a serious injury to one of the stevedores, requiring an operation on both legs. On account of corrosion from the high acidity content of the mixture of water and cargo more than 20 pumps had to be replaced in the course of the operation. Eventually, after the removal of 21,000 tonnes of cargo, the casualty was successfully refloated and towed to deep waters where she was anchored for the continuation of the operation.


TSAVLIRIS commented: "This was an extremely delicate and long-running salvage operation where our team had to battle a very difficult combination of circumstances that even experienced salvors do not face every day." The Group added, "It is a tribute to the skill and determination of our people, the crews and others working on this operation that we are almost finished and it has been seen through to a successful conclusion."