Crews from the Dutch salvage company Smit Salvage were lifted on board the casualty from a rescue helicopter. “Eemslift Hendrika” has been drifting towards land in “extremely bad weather with high wave height” since Monday.
– Right now, the salvage crew has been fired from a rescue helicopter and is in the process of rigging for towing both forward and aft of the vessel. The weather conditions are better than before, so in that sense we are optimistic, says emergency director Hans-Petter Mortensholm in the Norwegian Coastal Administration to Dagbladet TV at 22 Wednesday night.
The plan is for the casualty to be towed into the Ålesund area.
– We are also preparing for the worst, but there is probably a greater probability that we will succeed with the work that has been initiated.
Not without risk
There are four people in the team who are now staying on the casualty. The assignment is not risk-free, according to Mortensholm.
– But the personnel are trained and experienced, and this is where they work, so we are confident that the risk assessments they make are good and that they will succeed.
The weather in the area has made it difficult to put personnel on board at an earlier time.
– The weather has been extremely bad, but now it is fortunately better. Yesterday we had a wave height of up to 18 meters. Today it has sunk and it is down to three to four meters. The wind has also lied a lot, says Mortensholm.
Fight against the clock
The Dutch ship sent out an emergency signal on Monday morning after the cargo shifted and the ship capsized in the North Sea. That same evening, the ship lost all engine power and has since then drifted ashore in the bad weather.
On Wednesday evening, the vessel operates directly towards Stadlandet at a speed of approx. 1.5 knots, and the distance is about 10 nautical miles to land.
This means that the vessel will be able to drift ashore in about eight hours, writes the Norwegian Coastal Administration.
– As a result of the imminent risk that the vessel will be able to drift ashore during the night, the Norwegian Coastal Administration has declared a state action from 7 pm tonight. Full mobilization of oil spill response resources in the area has been initiated, it is stated in the press release sent by the Norwegian Coastal Administration earlier Wednesday night.
– Great uncertainty
Director of Emergency Management Hans-Petter Mortensholm states in the press release that conditions have changed during the afternoon and evening, and the Norwegian Coastal Administration is concerned that the vessel does not follow the runway on which the original plan was based.
– We are therefore setting government action now, so that we have the opportunity to tow the casualty. At the same time, we are preparing for a worst-case scenario where we get a grounding, says Mortensholm.
He explains to Dagbladet that the driftwater calculations showed that the vessel should continue north.
– So we considered that we had more time, but we now see that the course is not completely in line with the calculations. We do this to be careful, so that we do not get into a situation that in the worst case ends up with the casualty going aground, says Mortensholm and adds:
– In the worst case, the calculations show that the vessel runs aground in eight to ten hours. At best, the calculations say that the vessel does not run aground. But there is so much uncertainty.
He says that the Norwegian Coastal Administration is still optimistic.
– This is the best we can do now. The second is to sit and watch it run aground.
Has started work on emergency towing
He confirms that the state action is underway.
– Originally, the plan was to start early tomorrow, but the driftwater calculations are very variable, and with such a high degree of uncertainty, we believe that measures must be implemented, says emergency director Mortensholm.
The main rescue center in southern Norway informs Dagbladet that their task in the operation was to lift the salvage crew on board the ship. Their helicopter from Florø has since returned to land. According to HRS, the weather has calmed down somewhat.
The Norwegian Coastal Administration has also chosen to mobilize the oil spill response, and puts out oil spill response equipment both at sea and on land, so that this is clarified if the operation is not successful and the casualty runs aground.
Mortensholm says that they must prepare for the vessel to run aground, and therefore this has been activated. He states that the region contains particularly vulnerable natural areas, such as Fugleøya Runde, and the Norwegian Coastal Administration does not want them to be exposed to the strain of an oil spill.
The Norwegian Coastal Administration is the state pollution authority in the event of acute pollution or danger of acute pollution.
In the event of a report of, or imminent danger of, a major case of acute pollution, the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s environmental emergency service will mobilize emergency personnel and equipment from municipal and state emergency preparedness organizations.
If government action is implemented, the Norwegian Coastal Administration decides which measures are to be implemented and takes over tactical control over available equipment and materiel.