Salvors complete removal of stern of bulker that grounded off Gibraltar


After over four months of work, Donjon Marine Co. has completed the salvage of M/V Fedra, the 738-foot bulk carrier that ran aground off Gibraltar in October 2008 during a storm.

Bill Kratz, Donjon Marine's salvage master, said that the most difficult part of the job was carefully cleaning up the potential pollutants from the engine room and making sure that they were not released into the environment.

After the 35,886-gross-ton, seven-hold ship ran around, it split just aft of the No. 6 cargo hold. Under a separate salvage contract, the bow section was refloated and taken to Gibraltar Harbor. Donjon was given the job of salvaging the remaining stern section, which lay in about 20 feet of water. Approximately 10 feet of the hull was above water, leaving the engine room above the surface.

The cleanup included light and heavy oils, hydraulics, lubricants, and fuels. Half of its 300 tons of fuel spilled into the environment when the hull was smashed against the rocks, breaching the fuel tanks.

The salvage team used vacuum pumps designed and constructed by Donjon to pump the remaining oil into storage containers and then used the derrick barge Columbia, New York to remove those containers from the site. The team cleaned the fuel tanks before removing them from the hull. They used absorbent pads for the lighter oils and skimmers for the surface oil.

The team used a chopper beam to break the 500-ton main engine into two pieces before lifting it out of the hull. The salvage team also used the derrick barge to lift the remaining pieces of machinery in the engine room, which ranged from 10 to 80 tons.

The materials removed from the salvage site were taken to the Port of Gibraltar, where they were offloaded by a subcontractor who was responsible for the disposal of debris from Fedra.

The team also faced another problem involving the remaining oil. Because Fedra pounded against the rocks for so long, some of the oil spilled into the stern of the ship. Even after the team had finished with the engine room, they continued to find oil throughout the stern section and cleaned it up as they went along.

The salvage site's proximity to land both hindered and helped the progress of the salvage, said John Witte Jr., project manager and vice president of Donjon. The vessel's location was helpful when the wind blew from the west, as the salvage crew had a lee, but the location hurt because of the lack of protection from easterly winds.

Because the stern came to rest in shallow water close to shore, the salvage crew didn't have to work in deep water. But the shallow water did create a problem, because swells formed more quickly and deeply than they would have in deeper water.

Witte also cited the weather as being a significant factor in the progress of the salvage. "We were unable to work on site due to weather approximately 35 percent of our time in Gibraltar," he said.

Along with the chopper beam, the crew employed underwater and topside burning to dismantle the wreck. In addition to the derrick barge Columbia, New York, Donjon also used the salvage tug Atlantic Salvor and the material barge Witte 1404.

The work was completed on Oct. 12, 2009, four and a half months after it began.

"You can't just be like, 'Bob, Jill and Harry, come get rid of this thing,'" Witte said of a salvage operation. "It takes time."

By Professional Mariner Staff