Divers Search Sunken Iraqi Oil Tanker

Posted by Eric Haun
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Sterling Global Operations diver preparing to descend to wreck of VLCC Amuriyah to check for unexploded ordnance. (Photo: Sterling Global Operations)

Sterling Global Operations (SGO) has been chosen to provide surface - supplied divers for unexploded ordnance search and removal and salvage operations for the sunken 82,000-ton Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Amuriyah, an Iraqi tanker sunk near Bubiyan Island off the coast of Kuwait in Jan. 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

Special Diving Services (SDS) Holland hired SGO for this project.

"For years SGO has conducted major demining and unexploded ordnance clearance projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries around the world," said Matt Hulsey, SGO vice president of programs. "Now we're doing this important work under the sea, an example of SGO's versatility and ability."

Surface-supplied diving means air or breathing gas supplied via an umbilical from a surface vessel.

The VLCC Amuriyah wreck, at an average depth of 33 meters, must be removed because it's within the tanker turning circle of a future Single Mooring Point (SMP-5) at Iraq's Al Basrah Oil Terminal, through which 97 percent of Iraq's crude oil is shipped. The sunken vessel is blocking construction of a vital mooring point for the export of crude oil from SMP-5.

Oil sales make up 95 percent of Iraqi government revenues, so anything – such as a sunken ship – that blocks additional oil exports must be removed.

"Our employees will work under the supervision of SDS Holland to ensure that no unexploded ordnance remains on the ship or in the close proximity of the mooring point," Hulsey said. "SDS Holland is known worldwide for its experience and capabilities. We're delighted the company chose SGO to execute this project."

An on-site ship inspection by survey equipment and divers will assess the wreck's position and condition. This will include the search and mitigation of any unexploded ordnance that may be within the ship.

After the VLCC Amuriyah and surrounding area is cleared, plans are to raise and float the wreck, which is in two sections, away from the area. The ship will be salvaged.

The entire project, from survey to re-floating, is expected to take 12-18 months.


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