x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

White Whale raised after eight months off UAQ coast

Engineers say wreckage has been lifted after earlier efforts were hampered by bad weather, and ministry team is on site to watch for spills.

Engineers working on the salvation of the sunken White Whale ship in Umm Al Quwain.
Engineers working on the salvation of the sunken White Whale ship in Umm Al Quwain.

UMM AL QUWAIN // The White Whale supply ship that sank in Umm Al Quwain waters eight months ago has finally been salvaged, engineers said last night.

Dubai Ship Building, the company contracted by the Ministry of Environment and Water to bring the ship out, said the salvage work lasted for about eight days.

Earlier attempts had been hindered by weather, the company said.

The engineers tied the ship with ropes and wires, balanced it on the water and finally hauled it out using a larger ship called the Amlak, said Badr bin Mubarak, the managing director of Dubai Ship Building.

"There was some small diesel leakage as the ship came out of water but we managed to control it and everything is now safe and fine," Mr bin Mubarak said.

On Sunday the ship was hauled up five metres from the surface, but a wire snapped and it sank back into the water, he said.

The team had to start the salvaging work over again.

"Our biggest challenge was balancing the ship so it did not break into two parts," Mr bin Mubarak said.

He said the ship, which is owned by Arabian Coast Cargo Services of Ajman, was still at the site last night but was to be carried to one of the country's ports where it will be safely unloaded by the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Mr bin Mubarak said the ship came out of water carrying a total of 450 tonnes of diesel.

It was carrying several hundred tonnes of diesel when it sank 16 kilometres off the Umm Al Quwain coast on October 22.

The ministry did not issue a statement last night.

The minister, Dr Rashid bin Fahad, said this week the salvation work had resumed on Wednesday and the ship was expected to be out of water on Sunday.

"A team of the ministry's marine research center is stationed there to ensure a clean recovery operation without any oil spills," Mr bin Fahad said.

Last week, Hamad bin Mubarak, head of the salvage project, said every effort had been made to ensure the ship's salvaging worked this time.

"We are almost through with tying the wires beneath the ship and just need a good positioning to balance the ship before it is pulled out," Hamad bin Mubarak said.

He and his colleagues are working out of prefabricated offices on a barge next to the salvage rig, where they monitor the progress of divers through video and audio feeds.

Once work to balance the wreck has been completed the ship will be raised.

It was lying about 30 metres below the surface, 11 nautical miles off the coast of UAQ, about 30 minutes by boat.

Divers have on several occasions worked to stop the fuel leaks from the ship.

A number of ships have recently sunk in waters off the Northern Emirates because of bad weather.

In January, the Lady Moon, a 25-metre ship, sank 500 metres off the coast of Hamriya in Sharjah.

She had a storage capacity of between 200 and 250 tonnes of fuel. The ship's five Indian crew members were rescued uninjured.

In February last year two other cargo ships, the Dolphin and Lady Rana, ran aground on Sharjah Beach after technical problems caused by rough weather at sea.

A police spokesman said at the time that the captains of both ships had lost control after the vessels were battered by three-metre waves.

ykakande@thenational.ae