Friday is D Day for Sealand Express

Sep 10, 2003
Author: P&S

Preparations are continuing ahead of the next refloating attempt of the grounded container ship Sealand Express. Weather forecasts continue to indicate that the conditions of Friday (12 September) will be favourable, with an average swell of 4 metres being predicted.

Given the container ship’s grounding position, the swell will assist in moving her free of the sandbar and out into the channel of increased water depth created by the dredger HAM 316, says the salvage team, Smit Salvage.

They report that the dredger has continued to make significant progress during this week and has been able to work very close to the Sealand Express. However, the dredger will halt operations tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) so that that one of the tugs can be connected up to hold the casualty in place as deballasting begins. This process can take between 16 and 20 hours. All three tugs to be used in the attempt, the John Ross. Pacific Worker and Pacific Brigand, will be connected up by tomorrow evening.

Of the total of 33 containers containing cargo classed as hazardous on board the Sealand Express when she ran aground, twelve of them have been unpacked and their contents safely airlifted to the secure reception facility in the port, using a Mi8 helicopter. This process will continue until the deballasting process begins tomorrow afternoon and the vessel becomes ‘lively’ as she is lightened.

As a precautionary measure, dispersants will be introduced into the Sealand Express’ double bottom tanks, where only oil residues remain, and the tanks will be pressurised. Should these tanks sustain any damage and be breached during the course of the refloating process, the effect on the environment would be minimal.

However, stress monitors fitted to the ‘Sea-Land Express’s’ hull continue to indicate that her overall condition is still sound. Stresses being experienced by the ship are above normal but within the acceptable range – given the grounding forces that the fully laden container ship is experiencing.

The salvage team has removed all of the pumpable heavy fuel oil (3518 tonnes), leaving 215 tonnes of diesel (gasoil) remaining on board for use by the ship’s generators and main engines.

The Sealand Express is a USA flagged container ship owned by U.S. Ship Management, Inc and was built in 1980. She has a length of 257m and is 30 metres wide. Smit Salvage South Africa was awarded a Lloyds Open Form salvage contract with respect to the grounded container vessel.

The 32,926 DWT container ship ran aground at 06.55, 200 metres off Sunset Beach, north of the Port of Cape Town on Tuesday 19th August in severe weather and wave conditions during a typical Cape winter’s storm. The vessel was en route to Cape Town and the United States from Durban and Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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