Baltic Ace Salvage Suffers Major Setback

The Baltic Ace car carrier, sailing under a Bahamas flag, is seen in this undated file photo.
The Bahamas-flagged Baltic Ace car carrier is seen in this undated file photo.

Preparations for a planned attempt to the lift the sunken Baltic Ace car carrier from the seafloor near the port of Rotterdam has been abandoned because damage to the ship is worse than originally thought, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment said Tuesday.

The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, specifically the bureau known as Rijkswaterstaat, made the announcement after recent dive inspections revealed that the damage to the ship is far more robust than expected, with extensive cracking created by wind, tidal currents and wave action. For this reason, Rijkswaterstaat said, the preparations for the planned lifting operation have been discontinued and salvors will need to find an additional “storage method” for the wreck.

The Baltic Ace carrier sank on December 5, 2012 with an estimated 1,400 cars following a collision with the Corvus J containership near the entrance of the Eurogeul, a busy deepwater shipping lane leading to the port of Rotterdam. 11 of 24 crewmembers were killed when the vessel sank within about 15 minutes of the initial collision. The Baltic Ace now lies at depth of 35 meters and is only 6 meters from the surface, still posing a threat to the environment and ships entering Rotterdam.

RELATED: Photos Reveal Damage to Corvus J Containership Following Collision

Earlier this year, the Dutch Government awarded the salvage contract for the complete removal of wreck to the Dutch maritime services provider Royal Boskalis Westminster and its partner Mammoet Salvage.

According to a statement from Rijkswaterstaat released Tuesday, hoisting the strong top portions of the ship as originally planned is no longer feasible, but the bottom side of the wreck may still be strong enough to lift. The Dutch Government has now asked Boskalis and Mammoet, along with Rijkswaterstaat, to produce an alternative salvage plan by September.

The Dutch Government has required the wreck to be removed no later than December 31, 2015. It is unclear what this current setback will have on the overall timeline and costs for the project.

The sinking of the Baltic Ace reignited the debate over the safety of Roll On Roll Off (RoRo) vessels due to their large open cargo areas as opposed to a hull that is divided into separate holds by means of watertight bulkheads.