Titan Salvage, Crowley Maritime Corporation
's salvage and wreck removal company, reported that its salvage team on site in Gibraltar responding
to the wreck of the bulk ship New Flame is preparing to begin cutting the stern section of the ship from the sunken bow so that the stern can be re-floated and towed away.
The New Flame, which sank following a collision while exiting the port of Gibraltar in August of last year, now lies in the open ocean off Gibraltar's Europa Point with the forward four cargo holds of the ship lying on the ocean bottom, and cargo hold No.5 and the engine room still floating while being maintained by TITAN's salvage pumps. The ship is loaded with over 42,000 tons of scrap metal, which was being transported from New York Harbor to Turkey for recycling.
TITAN was contracted by vessel underwriters in mid-December after previous salvage / wreck removal efforts were terminated. The TITAN team first boarded the wreck on Dec. 24 and, because of pre-Christmas storms, was forced to work very quickly to prevent the stern section of the ship from sinking - performing damage control measures to stop the flooding in the engine room and cargo hold No. 5.
The salvage team presently consists of 20 people with logistics being supported from Titan's UK-based equipment depot. Vessels on site include Crowley's Invader-class tug Warrior, which is serving as the primary salvage tug on site; URS's dive support vessel Union Beaver; ITC's Shoal Buster-class tug Mistral, which is on her maiden voyage; and Crowley's 400' x 100' deck barge 408. Salvage equipment on site includes six TITAN Pullers
- two of which are currently on the wreck's stern fixed with heavy chain to two 10,000-kilo anchors. The chains are set by the pullers at 135 tons each.
With buoyancy in the after section now stabilized by the salvage team, efforts are underway to cut the ship in to two sections separating the ships floating after section - comprised of the engine room, accommodation block and No. 5 cargo hold - from the sunken forward section of the ship. Completing this cut will enable salvors to "float away" the after part of the ship for onward transportation to an approved scrapping facility.
Prior to completing the cut, the team must first moor the barge 408 at the forward end of the wreck and cut away deck structures such as cranes, masts and deck houses to enable the barge to float freely over the wreck as it is moved further aft along the wreck until reaching the cut line at the after end of the No. 4 cargo hold. To complete this cut, TITAN will use heavy anchor chain operated by two TITAN Pullers positioned aboard the barge 408. As cutting will take place in way of the No. 4 double bottom fuel tanks, all efforts at this time are being focused on removing fuel oil residue from these tanks.
Barge 408 was moored at the wreck site Monday. Depending on weather conditions, deck clearing operations should last about 7 working days and the actual cutting of the ship and stabilization of the stern section should take about another 5 days. Complete removal of the sunken forward section of the ship and cargo is estimated to take an additional 90-120 working days.