Norwegian authorities late today declared a state of emergency fearing that a Dutch heavy-lift vessel that has been adrift off the coast is in immediate danger of ground and causing an environmental incident. In a late night effort, salvage crews boarded the drifting vessel attempting to attach a towline while a full mobilization of oil spill response resources has also been initiated.
Teams from the Norwegian Coastal Administration and Coast Guard have remained on scene monitoring the vessel the Eemslift Hendrika since the vessel issued a distress call on April 5. The vessel began listing after its cargo shifted during a storm approximately 60 nautical miles west of Alesund, Norway. The captain and crew abandoned the vessel fearing it could capsize in the storm.
Saying the conditions had changed late this afternoon and into the evening, the Norwegian authorities said they now believed the vessel will come ashore within the next eight hours unless they take immediate action. The vessel has been drifted towards land and the latest position shows that it is about 10 nautical miles offshore moving towards Stadtlandet, Norway at a speed of approximately 1.5 knots.
“We are therefore taking government action now so that we have the opportunity to tow the casualty,” said emergency director Hans Petter Mortensholm. “At the same time, we are preparing for a worst-case scenario with a grounding. The region has particularly vulnerable natural areas, and we do not want them to be exposed to the strain of an oil spill.”
This morning, the Norwegian helicopters had overflown the area making an inspection and planning efforts to airlift a salvage crew aboard the ship. They reported that the weather had calmed down overnight with seas now running 6 to 8 meters (previously they were above 15 meters) and the winds were between a light to stiff gale. There were also snow showers in the area.
Video showing the Eemslift Hendrika and salvage tugs this morning (Kystvakta)
The tugs BB Ocean and Normand Drott operated by Smit Salvage also arrived at the casualty early on Wednesday and were standing by to attach a tow line. The plan was for the helicopter to hoist a four-person salvage crew to the deck of the Eemslift Hendrika where they would secure the tow line. The tugs will then reposition the ship into sheltered waters.
Due to the weather in the area around the Eemslift Hendrika, the Norwegian authorities and salvage team decided at mid-day to postpone the effort to get a crew aboard until Thursday. “Life and health are always the first priority during an incident like this, and it must be safe to carry out the rescue,” said Mortensholm. At the time, the Norwegian Coastal Authority reported that driftway calculations showed that the danger of the ship running aground was small, and with better weather expected on Thursday they believed it was more likely that the action could be carried out successfully.
The change in the drift calculations forced the teams to begin the emergency efforts which are ongoing. The salvage crew was successfully airlifted to the vessel and is currently attempting to secure the tow line.
Separately, the Norwegian authorities also located the service vessel which fell off the Eemslift Hendrika. It remains afloat several miles from the lift-vessel also drifting in the storm.
The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.
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