The extraction and decontamination operations of the wreck of the tug Sir Gaëtan were completed yesterday, September 23, at 4:15 pm, with 109.5 m3 of oil mixed with sea water pumped out of the tug including the removal of batteries on board. The operation in Poudre d’Or was contucted from Posh Peserverance, a DP 2.0 vessel, which was loaded with specialised equipment and was geared to facilitate submarine operations, such as welding and pumping. The multi-partnered team, headed by Polyeco and Dive Solutions (Mauritius) worked relentlessly around the clock to ensure that all hydrocarbons were safely and securely removed without any contamination affecting the surrounding habitat. Throughout the span of the operations, a total of 750m of sorbent booms were deployed and 300m of oil booms were set up in the lagoon as precautionary measures.
Following the extraction of oil,13 tanks and spaces in the engine room were inspected and flushed out with the introduction of pressurized air to ensure that no hydrocarbons were left on board. The delicate operation of cutting into the hull to access the engine room was perfomed with the use of an underwater cutting torch. Accessing the engine room was necessary in order to inspect and flush out any other contaminants that might be present on the tug. It is to be noted that the application of the hot tapping drilling method to connect the pipe that extracted the oil from the tanks was the safest way to perform the operations.
According to Polyeco and Dive Solutions (Mauritius), “The protection of the environment and following strict safety protocols for the surrounding habitats and our divers are our upmost priority. We are pleased to report that we were able to successfully complete this time-sensitive operation, despite adverse conditions delaying the pumping exercise. Operations on the Sir Gaëtan tug could not have been perfomed at this high level of efficiency without the cooperation, expertise and professionalism of all those engaged. We extend our gratitude to all those involved, including the Mauritius Ports Authority, National Coast Guard, INS Nireekshak and others who were essential to the operation.”
During underwater operations, the divers had to bravely deal with unsteady and rapidly changing currents and be in constant communication with the team aboard Posh Perseverance.. By means of mobile hyperbaric chamber on board, divers were able to recover from exhaustive dives and gear up for another day of operations. Members of the team spent nights aboard the Posh Perseverance, showing not only their commitment to the project but also the genuine concern to resolve upcoming issues.