Shanghai Salvage Company has started moving personnel and resources to New Caledonia to carry out the final removal of the stricken cargo ship Kea Trader from a reef now eight months after its initial grounding, the shipowner Lomar Shipping said in an update Tuesday.
In addition to mobilizing assets, Shanghai Salvage has now started the handover from Ardent to ensure all safeguards are in place to protect the environment during the recovery phase. This work expected to be completed this month, the update said.
Shanghai Salvage’s structural experts have also started to assess the status of the vessel, which has majorly deteriorated from the direct impact of two back-to-back cyclones earlier this year, causing a shift on the reef.
The weather has continued to be an issue at the site. According to the shipowner, teams from Shanghai Salvage and Ardent were finally able to board the vessel for a first time last Saturday after weeks of poor weather conditions and heavy swells prevented access to the vessel.
So far 697 of the 782 containers and flat-racks that were originally on the Kea Trader when she wrecked have now been brought to shore. Several other containers, all believed to be empty, were lost overboard during the two cyclones, although exact numbers are still to be determined due to the condition of the vessel, the update said.
Four offshore vessels continue to search nearby areas to recover any floating debris, as well as shore-based crews.
The newbuild 2,194 TEU Kea Trader was only six months old when she ran aground July 12, 2017, on Durand Reef during a voyage from Papeete, in French Polynesia, to Nouméa, New Caledonia, while loaded with 782 container units and flat-racks. The vessel was declared a total loss a short time later.
Shanghai Salvage was awarded the removal contract in March following a comprehensive four-month tender process. The US salvage firm Ardent previously had the contract for cargo removal and anti-pollution operations, which have been on-going at the site.
The Kea Trader was delivered in January 2017 by Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard in China and she is registered in Valletta, Malta.