The 2017 built container vessel ran hard aground at Durand Reef, off New Caledonia, on July 12th 2017.
At 90 NM off the New Caledonian main island, the reef and casualty were fully exposed to the prevailing weather and ocean swell. The vessel sustained sea water ingress into all cargo holds and the engine room. Ardent was contracted under Lloyd’s Open Form and mobilized its initial salvage team from Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands, arriving on board on the 13th. First equipment arrived onboard per charter planes, sea freight and helicopters on the 18th. A conventional cargo barge was converted into a fuel oil receiving barge. During the initial attempt to bring this barge alongside, weather and sea conditions caused environmental and safety constraints, so it was decided to airlift the hydrocarbons onto the barge, which was kept going at a safe distance.
On July 27th Ardent started discharging loaded IBC’s per helicopter onto this barge, and removed the majority of pollutants by August 11th. Removal of containers per ships gear onto barges was reliant on good weather conditions that allow to safely bring vessels alongside. The weather window allowed container transfer to commence on August 5th. A Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane was chartered from Australia to overcome the challenge of bringing vessels alongside and increase in the daily removal of containers. An agreement was reached with island tribe chiefs, French and local authorities to create a helicopter base on Mare Island (40 NM from casualty) to minimize air distances, while a football pitch was converted into an airbase and fuel transfer station. Two general cargo vessels were chartered for receiving containers. Whilst offloading containers there was the challenge of the air operation coordination with the Skycrane, Bell 214 and Squirrel helicopters flying over casualty concurrently.
Between August 24th and September 7th 313 containers were transferred by the Skycrane. After removing sufficient pollutants and cargo, and patching tanks, a refloat attempt was executed on October 9th. An unforecasted swell during the attempt caused the vessel to move violently resulting in damages to all repairs and subsequent flooding of compartments critical for the refloat.
During the refloat attempt the vessel pivoted by 60 degrees towards deeper water. Preparations for a new refloat attempt were undertaken, but after four months of continual pounding in sometime storm-force seas and the stress of sitting hard aground on a flat rock reef resulted in the casualty fracturing vertically, and eventually rupturing completely into two halves on November 12th. Ardent continued the next important phase of the operation by further removing all pollutants and remaining cargo, which was achieved by May 2018 (a total of 821 m3 of heavy fuel oil and 697 containers).
An environmental catastrophe was prevented by Ardent and its partners. A total of 91 Ardent salvage experts worked for 10 months, with 100+ tons of Ardent equipment,18 floating assets and 3 helicopters, whilst sustaining 0 LTI’s during the complete operation.