Floating booms were put in place for the first time on Monday in the area of the sinking of the Grande America, in the Bay of Biscay, thanks to the improvement in weather conditions, announced the maritime prefecture of the Atlantic.
“Spill response operations continued, with the deployment of floating booms and trawls,” read a statement. “As of today, we are really starting to have weather conditions that allow the launching of equipment. Trawls had already been launched, the floating booms are the first time,” maritime prefecture spokesman Riaz Akhoune told AFP.
Several vessels carry out pollution response operations in the area, including the Argonaute and the Sapeur chartered by the French Navy, but also the Partisan and the Ria de Vigo chartered by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) or the Spanish tug Alonso de Chaves. A second Spanish tug, the Maria de Maetzu, is expected in the area on Tuesday.
Pollution “made up of piles of heavy fuel oil scattered on the surface”
An aerial observation flight was carried out during the day by a plane from the Spanish government agency in charge of maritime protection (Sasemar). Above the wreckage, which sank on March 12 at a depth of 4,600 meters after a violent fire, “a surface iridescence dotted with piles of heavy fuel oil is visible”, indicates the maritime prefecture, adding that the initial pollution emitted by the Italian ship during its “drift” sinking, without however specifying the direction. This pollution is “made up of piles of heavy fuel oil scattered on the surface”, specifies the same source. In addition, “the maritime authorities remain vigilant as to the possible illicit discharges of hydrocarbons by opportunistic polluting ships”, she underlines.
The tugboat Union Lynx, chartered by the shipowner, the Grimaldi company, proceeded to “tow a container of non-hazardous material to the port of La Rochelle”. He should then try to recover one of the two survival craft from the Grande America, located adrift about 55 km west of the coast.
The Italian ship, which left Hamburg for Casablanca, sank 333 km west of La Rochelle with 365 containers on board, 45 of which were listed as containing hazardous materials, more than 2,000 vehicles, as well as 2,200 tonnes of heavy fuel oil in its holds. Its 27 occupants were rescued and brought back to Brest, where an accidental pollution investigation was opened.