First phases of BBC China wreck reduction operation underway

Nov 19, 2004
Author: Joint Response Committee

Friday 19th November 2004, 15h00

Subject to the final results of an Environmental Impact Assessment report to be completed and submitted on Monday 22 November to the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism and the South African Maritime Safety Authority, preparations for the BBC China wreck reduction operation continue. It is likely that the BBC China salvage team will carry out a reduced wreck reduction plan including
pre-cutting, burning and toppling of the accommodation section, removal of masts and toppling of cranes and removal of all deck cargo after which a reduced blasting operation to render the fuel tanks tidal will take place. However, plans are in place should it be deemed viable for an extensive blasting operation to render the wreck open to the sea.

This decision will only be made once the results of the Environmental Impact Assessment have been presented.

In the interim several pollution prevention and wreck reduction measures are proceeding, including preparations for the burning of the accommodation section to further clean and eradicate any pollutants, removal of certain loose equipment and fittings from the deck for safety reasons, toppling of the cranes and the accommodation section and opening up of fuel tanks and the engine room to the sea to allow flushing of the tanks. The methods employed in the wreck reduction
operation will have the least impact on the environment and also ensure in the short and long term that the wreck is not attractive to local inhabitants, tourists and adventure seekers whose safety could be at risk should they wish to investigate the wreck. Members of the public are kindly requested to adhere to any access boundaries established by authorities in the vicinity of the wreck for their own safety during the
burning and toppling of the accommodation due to take place within the next few days.

The BBC China salvage team completed the recovery of the majority of all pollutants from the wreck last week and also completed the removal of specific cargo items such as paint and lead-covered batteries. The salvage team completed stripping the accommodation section of the BBC China last weekend, which entailed the removal of all movable items, panelling and fittings. Pre-cutting of the accommodation section, which constitutes one of the first phases of the partial wreck removal operation, also began over the weekend and continues. Containers on deck are being discharged and will be cut up in order to clear the deck of the BBC China.

A consultative meeting on the wreck reduction process was held on Tuesday in the Eastern Cape between the South African Maritime Safety Authority, Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, salvage company Smit, local leaders, representatives of the local community and BBC China Owner's Representatives.

The Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism's oil pollution patrol and abatement vessel - Kuswag I - undertakes regular patrols in the vicinity of the casualty. The oil pollution patrol aircraft - Kuswag VIII - continues to patrol the coastline on a daily basis. Of paramount importance during the BBC China salvage operation is the protection of the marine environment. To this end, both proactive and
reactive environmental protection measures are in place. As part of the precautionary measures put in place by the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, contingency plans remain in place for all beach and lagoon areas both north and south of the BBC China and a team is on standby to respond as required.

The 5,548gt general cargo vessel BBC China was built in 2001. It was en route to the Port of Durban from Port o Spain, with a cargo of assorted machinery, when it ran aground on 16 October at Port Grosvenor, on a notoriously rocky part of the wild coast, approximately 110 nautical miles south of Durban. The vessel's crew was safely airlifted off the vessel shortly after she ran aground.

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