The Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) has decided to award the contract for the possible salvage of the U-864 submarine and its cargo of mercury to Mammoet Salvage B.V.
Two options have been proposed to deal with the environmental hazard formed by the mercury in the U-864 submarine: (a) to encase the wreck and cover the seabed to prevent the spread of the pollution, and (b) to recover the wreck (salvage) and remove all the pollutants from the marine environment. Mammoet Salvage has proposed a safe and innovative salvage solution.
The U-864 time bomb
On 9 February 1945, the German submarine U-864 was torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Venturer. The U-864 sank about two nautical miles west of the island Fedje, just north of Bergen, with the loss of all 73 on board. The submarine's cargo included approximately 67 tons of metallic mercury which is highly toxic. As the U-864 was on a mission it was also carrying a full load of weapons. The vessel's wreckage is considered to be a potential long-term threat to human health and the environment.
The Norwegian Parliament has to decide if the wreck and its cargo should be raised to the surface, or be encased on the seabed and the contaminated sediment capped to prevent the spread of pollutants. Mammoet Salvage has proposed a method to raise the wreck which satisfies the environmental requirements. If the Norwegian Parliament approves this method then the salvage operation is likely to take place in 2010. This decision will probably be taken before the end of 2008.
The NCA selected Mammoet Salvage B.V. for the potential salvage of the German submarine because of the company's innovative engineered solution. This together with the experience gained on the remote control salvage of the Runner 4 in the Baltic Sea last year, has resulted in a safe, fully remotely-controled operation. With this system Mammoet will raise the submarine and take away the source of pollution without the need for anyone working under water. Mammoet Salvage has found a solution to overcome one of the specific challenges: lifting the wreck from the unstable seabed.
The Norwegian Parliament now has to decide if the wreck and its cargo should be salvaged forever or be left in place and encased and capped.
Mammoet Salvage B.V. and affiliated company Mammoet Norge AS are part of the Mammoet Holding B.V. (heavy transport and lifting specialists) which was awarded the contract of the salvage of the Kursk Russian nuclear submarine in 2001. Since then Mammoet Salvage has carried out a range of salvage projects throughout the world.