x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Wreckage of sunken ship to be salvaged

FNC members critical of what they see as a lacklustre salvage effort that has left wreckage of diesel tanker The White Whale at bottom of sea for three months.

UMM AL QAIWAIN //The White Whale supply ship that sank off the coast of Umm Al Qaiwain will, weather permitting, be raised from the seabed by the weekend, authorities have announced.

The Ministry of Environment and Water is cooperating with the Dubai Ship Building company in an effort to raise the vessel, which sank three months ago, by Saturday.

The company, which specialises in recovering wrecks, has deployed the 500-tonne Amlak vessel equipped with the cranes and crew necessary to carry out the work, said Badr Mohammed Obaid bin Mubarak, its deputy director. The company is also using equipment from the Mubarak Marine Company.

"It will take about 36 hours for the ship to be pulled out of the water - we need eight divers, two ships and a crane to close any vents and stop leakages. We also need to ensure safety and prevent any environmental problems," he said.

"We now have our technicians monitoring the vessel to ensure that the strong winds currently at sea don't cause any movement."

The ship lies 11 nautical miles off the UAQ coast at a depth of about 30 metres. More than 450 tonnes of diesel remain onboard following an earlier leak.

A team of experts, divers and technicians has been studying the condition of the White Whale to determine the best way to raise it safely, said Hamad Mohammed Obaid bin Mubarak, who is coordinating the salvage effort.

He said that the ship was ready to be pulled out.

"We have already tied the ship with guiding ropes and wire fillings that can lift heavy objects to the two ships - one ship will lift the White Whale from the seabed while more ropes will be passed beneath it to help hold the ship steady so it doesn't move in the waves," he said.

The White Whale, which was carrying parts and materials for use on oil rigs, sank on October 22.

Nine of its crew were arrested and referred to the public prosecution on charges of overloading.

The Ministry of Environment received a letter of authorisation from the UAQ public prosecution to salvage the ship.

The Dubai Ship Building company was contracted by the environment ministry to help. Its divers were among those who sealed up the diesel leaks that occurred when it sank.

According to the Dubai Ship Building company, the White Whale sank because of overloading and misguidance from the captain. One of its tanks also had its cover open, which allowed water to enter and cause the ship to sink.

The ship's owner is being compensated by his insurance company.

kyasin@thenational.ae