SMIT Salvage achieved the pollution-free refloating of the product tanker Nino today. This vessel grounded on South Africa’s Wild Coast
, around 60 miles north east of East London, on July 18, while carrying a part cargo of 7,700 tonnes of gasoil and gasoline.
The vessel went aground at a very remote location. SMIT obtained a LOF/SCOPIC salvage contract and immediately mounted a major casualty and pollution prevention operation. Vessels mobilised in the first few hours included the Wolraad Woltemade – one of the world’s largest salvage tugs, the anchorhandling tug Pentow Service, the environmental patrol vessel S.A. Kuswag 1 and an inshore survey vessel (required to survey the shallow waters around the grounded Nino). In addition, an S61 helicopter was deployed, to provide logistical support for the salvage team, and the environmental surveillance aircraft S.A. Kuswag 7 was mobilized from Cape Town to overfly the casualty on a regular basis.
The priority, throughout the operation, was to minimize and then substantially reduce the threat of pollution. The first objective was to remove the Nino’s intermediate fuel oil.
The Salvage Plan, approved by the South African authorities
, had three objectives: to maintain the vessel in a stable condition throughout the salvage, to carry out the pollution-free discharge of the ship’s bunkers and a part-discharge of the cargo and, thirdly, to refloat the vessel.
The work began with the internal transfer of fuel oil and cargo from outer tanks to an available centre tank, to reduce the potential for leakage. In addition, the survey of the approach to the casualty began. Divers laid buoys to mark a safe approach for vessels involved in the lightering operation. The transfer operation began on Friday, July 26, when a second anchorhandling tug, the Pacific Brigand, entered the buoyed approach channel, connected up to the stern of the Nino and rigged flexible hoses.
Pumping operations over the next few days were interrupted on several occasions by bad weather, with winds of up to 70 kts recorded at the scene. Nevertheless, the Pacific Brigand removed all but 60 tonnes of the fuel oil, making two voyages to East London for discharge to the Jumbo, a barge specially prepared for the reception role.
Yesterday morning (July 31), the small product tanker Oranjemund connected up to the Nino. The salvage team pumped the remaining fuel oil
to the Oranjemund, followed by 1,600 tonnes of gasoil.
Throughout the transfer operation and bad weather periods, the Nino was held firm by the Wolraad Woltemade. The big tug had connected up using a special lightweight synthetic cable, taken to the Nino by the small support vessel Ocean Pride. Despite weighing only a fraction of equivalent steel cable, “Dyneema” synthetic has a strength equivalent to heavy steel tow wires.
With the fuel oil and a proportion of the gasoil taken off, the conditions were established for a successful refloating. The Wolraad Woltemade began pulling as High Water approached yesterday evening and the Nino refloated at around 20.45 local time.
The vessel is now under tow by the Wolraad Woltemade. A morning overflight confirmed no pollution from the vessel. The Nino and tug, together with the S.A. Kuswag 1, will stand off the coast, at a distance of some 25 miles, while an inspection takes place and arrangements are made for the discharge of the remaining cargo and the redelivery of the vessel.