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Kea Trader Wreck Hit by Two Cyclones, Causing Shift on Reef

Kea Trader Wreck Hit by Two Cyclones, Causing Shift on Reef
Two powerful cyclones within a month have caused the further deterioration of the wreck of the wreck of the Kea Trader off New Caledonia in the South Pacific, further complicating the salvage, the owner of the vessel said Monday.

Over the weekend, the wreck site was hit with its second cyclone, Cyclone Hola, just three weeks after it was also hit by Cyclone Gita. In both instances, precautionary measures were put in place at the wreck site to minimize the impact from the storms, Lomar Shipping said in a update. Measures included bringing personnel and vessels were brought to safe shelter in Nouméa.

Despite efforts, the storms have had a direct impact on the state of the wreck, including its positioning on Durand Reef, where the newbuild containership has been remained since running aground in July 2017.

Lomar Shipping on Monday provided the following update on the wreck:

Initial aerial inspections found the wreck had shifted – with the two hull sections (that had fractured into two last November) colliding to cause damage to the forward section. Hold 3 disintegrated in the extreme sea conditions that were whipped up by violent winds. This hold had been cleaned although four stored empty containers were lost. Hold 2 was also breached, with an estimated 25 empty containers and some residual debris lost to the elements.

The cyclones also affected the aft section. Two hatch covers and some 17-metres of vertical hull sides were detached from a cargo hold previously cleared of containers and other materials. These structures were located adjacent to the vessel on the floor of the rock reef.

Aerial surveillance began as soon as conditions allowed on Sunday, with the Owners working alongside the authorities to assess the vessel and locate any debris. A single container was discovered floating near the site, with sea-going assets dispatched to recover it.

The 25,293 dwt was loaded with 782 containers and flat-racks when she grounded on Durand Reef on July 12, 2017 during a voyage from Papeete, French Polynesia to Nouméa in New Caledonia. At the time, the 2,194-TEU capacity containership was just a few months into service, having been delivered from the Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard in China in January 2017.

The vessel ended up breaking in two this past November and it has since been declared a total loss.

According to Lomar Shipping, salvage operations were impacted by rough seas in the first two months of 2018, but a brief respite from the weather had allowed the recovery of 12 additional containers from the cargo holds, leaving just 84 of the original 782 containers and flat-racks still on board. Other materials, including soiled insulating foam, continue to be recovered and removed from the wreck.

Lomar Shipping’s update provided additional details on the operation:

Elsewhere, furniture and electronic equipment were removed from accommodation areas – with the dismantling of partitions and false ceilings completed on the bridge and upper levels. Attention had switched to lower levels of the accommodation block.

Various measures to minimise damage in preparation for the cyclones included the removal of equipment containing fuel and oil, securing of materials and the addition of extra ballast to both halves of vessel. However, the force of the cyclone resulted in the escape of some limited oil deposits and soiled materials from inaccessible areas of the vessel, with tar balls and other material subsequently collected from beaches on the island of Mare.

Fully trained contractors – with access to equipment made available on all the Loyalty Islands, the mainland of New Caledonia and Ile Des Pins – have been alerted and will respond and collect any materials that come ashore. This shoreline response operation will continue for as long as necessary.

Last week, Lomar Shipping announced it has awarded Shanghai Salvage Company with the contract to remove the Kea Trader from the reef. The U.S. salvage company Ardent was previously hired to undertake cargo removal and anti-pollution operations, which are continuing at the site. 

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