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A salvage team was successful in securing a tow line to the Eemslift Hendrika and the vessel is now under tow to Ålesund, the Norwegian Coastal Administration has confirmed. At the moment, there is no longer a risk of grounding.
The team boarded the drifting vessel by helicopter Wednesday evening in an attempt to attach a line to the vessel to prevent it from grounding along the rugged west coast of Norway, which officials said was imminent within hours if not for the success of the operation.
Earlier in the day, plans to board the abandoned heavy lift ship had been postponed for the day due weather and drift models that showed a low risk of grounding. Updated models, however, combined with a more favorable weather window than previously expected, forced crews to make an attempt to rescue the ship despite the conditions.
“Conditions have changed during the afternoon and evening, and we are concerned that the vessel does not follow the runway on which the original plan was based,” said emergency director Hans-Petter Mortensholm in a statement translated from Norwegian. “We are therefore taking government action now, so that we have the opportunity to tow the casualty. At the same time, we are preparing for a worst-case scenario where we get a grounding,”
Late in the afternoon, the vessel was located only about only about ten nautical miles to land and drifting directly towards land in Stadtlandet at a speed of approx. 1.5 knots, meaning a grounding would occur within “about 8 hours,” the Norwegian Coastal Administration said earlier in the day. On shore, officials had already mobilized oil spill response resources in case the ship grounded.
The Eemslift Hendrika had been adrift since Monday after its crew sent a distress signal that the vessel lost stability in the Norwegian Sea approximately 60 nautical miles west of Ålesund. All twelve crew members were evacuated by Monday evening over fears the ship could sink, including four in survival suits who were forced to enter the water for rescue by helicopter.
Dutch firm SMIT Salvage was hired for the salvage and sent two contracted tugs to the scene, BB Ocean and Normand Drot, but the team was unable to board.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Norwegian Coast Administration reported that drift calculations indicated the risk of the ship running aground was low, but the situation seemed to change as the day wore on and forced the administration to invoke a government mandate to intervene.
In addition to cargo both above and below deck, on board the Eemslift Hendrika is approximately 350 tonnes of heavy oil and 50 tonnes of diesel. A green workboat that was previously on deck was lost overboard, but apparently spotted in the area still afloat and retrieved.
“Life and health are always the first priority during an incident like this, and it must be safe to carry out the rescue,” said Mortensholm in an update from earlier Wednesday.
Built in 2015, Eemslift Hendrika is a yacht transport ship operated by Monaco-based Starclass Yacht Transport. AIS data shows the ship departed Bremerhaven, Germany on March 4 with a destination of Kolvereid, Norway.
An video of the vessel is below from earlier Wednesday is below:
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