Modern Express Salvage: Officials Preparing for Possible Grounding as Salvors Struggle to Board – Update

MV Modern Express pictured in the Bay of Biscay, Sunday, January 31, 2016. Photo credit: Marine Nationale
MV Modern Express pictured in the Bay of Biscay, Sunday, January 31, 2016. Photo credit: Marine Nationale

Update (Monday Feb. 1, 2016): Modern Express Saved! Drifting Cargo Ship Under Tow in Bay of Biscay

Update (Sunday Jan. 31, 2016): Crews have started preparing for the Modern Express’s possible grounding if a tow line cannot be established in the next 24 hours, officials said Sunday. An update at 15:00 local time said the ship was located 50 nautical miles west of Arcachon, France and drifting southeast at a speed of just over 2 knots. 

Weather conditions have further deteriorated since Saturday, with winds of 50 km/h and waves of 6 meters. Weather continues to prevent salvors from boarding the vessel to establish a tow line at time of update. According to Maritime Prefect, salvors will attempt to board the vessel again on Monday morning when the next favorable weather window is expected in a last ditch effort to save the ship before it runs aground. 

In Pictures: The Amazing Race to Save the Modern Express

Officials estimate that the ship may run aground sometime between Monday night and Tuesday night in the vicinity of Landes department in France.

The ship is carrying 300 tons of diesel, according to Maritime Prefect, but at this point all fuel remains secure. The shoreline near Landes is sandy, the agency said.

Maritime Prefect reported at 11:00 Sunday that the ship was located at 59 nautical miles west Arcachon and winds were gusting to 80 km/h.

For reference, on Saturday at 17:30 local time the vessel was approximately 108 nautical miles west of Gironde and drifting up to 3 knots. 

From Saturday:

A helicopter drops a salvage team aboard the Modern Express, January 30, 2016. Photo credit: Marine Nationale
A helicopter drops a salvage team aboard the Modern Express, January 30, 2016. Photo credit: Marine Nationale

Quick update today on the on-going Modern Express situation in the Bay of Biscay…

On Friday, a four-man team was able to board the listing vessel by helicopter, but they were unable to establish a towing line before disembarking by nightfall. One of the salvors suffered minor injuries in the operation and has been evacuated from the area.

As of Saturday, weather on the scene deteriorated with winds of Force 6 gusting to 70 km/h and waves of 4 to 6 meters, making another attempt to board the vessel very risky.  

According to Maritime Prefect Atlantic, a team was once again hoisted onto the vessel for a short time to make initial preparations a tow once a weather window presents itself. Another attempt to tow the vessel will not be made until Sunday morning at the earliest. 

The location of the Modern Express as of 17:30 local time was approximately 108 nautical miles west of Gironde, France, drifting east towards land at 2 to 3 knots. 

Le batîment de commerce "Modern Express" est à la dérive au large des côtes françaises, suite a une avarie et a l'évacuation de son équipage. L'Abeille Bourbon ainsi que la Frégate Anti-sous-marine (FASM) Primauguet arrivent sur zone avec les experts de la Marine Nationale, pour une évaluation de la situation. Le Vendredi 29 Janvier 2016 au large des côtes françaises.
Salvors were able to connect a messenger line to the Modern Express on Friday, but the line parted and they aborted the attempt. Photo credit: Marine Nationale

On scene are two tugs contracted by the ship owner, the French emergency tug Abeille Bourbon, the French Navy frigate Primauguet with a Lynx helicopter, and the AHTS Argonaute.

Background

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The Panamanian-flagged pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Modern Express developed a severe list on Tuesday while underway in the Bay of Biscay on a voyage from Gabon, Africa to the port of Le Havre, France.

All 22 crew members were evacuated by Spanish search and rescue helicopters. The ship entered French waters a short time after the rescue and has since been drifting east at a speed of 1 to 3 knots. 

Ship owner Cido Shipping has hired SMIT Salvage to rescue the vessel.

It is carrying 3,600 tons of timber and construction equipment. 

For Latest Updates: Modern Express Adrift in Bay of Biscay