Authorities have approved the plan for the removal of broken up containership Kea Trader from a rock reef in the south Pacific, where it has spent the last eight months.
A tender winner is expected to be named within the next few weeks, following the completion of contractual negotiations.
“The approved plan involves an innovative solution for safely lifting and then removing the two halves of vessel intact from the reef to protect the marine environment. Further details will be revealed in due course,” Lomar Shipping, the owner of the ill-fated vessel, said in an update.
The approved contractor has also agreed to explore opportunities for continuing to utilise local suppliers within the New Caledonia region.
Ardent has led recovery work on the Kea Trader since its grounding last July, initially removing heavy fuel oil and other pollutants, before extracting all but 96 of the 756 containers and 26 flat-racks that were originally on board.
Ardent will continue working in a caretaker capacity until the contractor is selected for the full removal of the wreck.
“Since the original grounding, the authorities and owners have placed paramount importance on the safe removal of the Kea Trader in a way that mitigates any damage and protects the marine environment. The chosen methodology has faced very close scrutiny and rigorous evaluation, and we are all equally convinced, subject to the contractual agreement, that it is the best and quickest option for us moving forward,” a Lomar spokesman said.
Adverse weather has prevented workers from boarding the vessel for much of the past month.
Cyclones and heavy storms have generated up to seven-meter waves on site that have twice moved the forward section. A change in direction of heavy seas initially rotated the bow into almost perfect realignment with the stern section in the middle of January. Further storms forced a significant lateral shift of the forward section this week, leaving both sections listing slightly.
Despite these movements, there have been no signs of pollution, according to Lomar. Two containers have been removed by helicopter, in cut-up sections, during a rare positive weather window.
To remind, in late November a marine pollution alert was issued after globules of oil washed ashore along some of the beaches of Lifou Island, New Caledonia, including Lifou, Ouvea and both Yate and Houailou.
Following the incident, measures were undertaken to prevent further pollution from the vessel, including recovering of the unpumpable ballast water from the cargo holds and skimming operations.
A large fleet of support vessels continues to remain on site to support the recovery operation – including two main offshore bases equipped with offshore anti-pollution collection booms, two storage barges and two shallow draft tugs with further pollution collection arms.
The 2,194-TEU containership ran aground six months after its delivery from Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard in China.