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Previous experience

Several past examples have shown that if it is not possible to refloat a vessel very rapidly, the exercise can become very delicate, time-consuming and costly due to its complexity. In the case of the container ship the Melbridge Bilbao which grounded on a sand bank on the island of Molène in 2001, the vessel was able to be refloated very rapidly at high tide. However, the container ship the Kini Kersten which grounded on a beach in Normandy in 1987 could not be reached by tugs to rapidly free the vessel. She was not refloated until 2 weeks later after major work. Another example is that of the bulk carrier the Coral Bulker which had to be cut up to be removed from the harbour wall of a Portuguese port, through a series of long and delicate operations.

The example of the Fénès, which sank in 1996 and lost its cargo of 2,650 tonnes of wheat, showed that a foodstuff can become a pollutant. The decomposition of the cargo of wheat which had accumulated on the seabed caused hydrogen sulphide to be released, which led to the decision to remove the wheat. However the recovery operations had to temporarily be put on hold in order to take specific protective measures for the divers. The wheat recovered was then disposed of in high seas to avoid the problems which would be caused by transporting rotten, oozing wheat over land.

In relation to this example, in the case of the Rokia Delmas, the transport of the cocoa beans in containers minimised the risk of major accumulations. The floating capacity of the beans and the tidal currents in the Atlantic would also have promoted their dispersion in the event of them falling into the water.

In terms of the cutting up and removal of the wreck, we can refer to the case of the Tricolor, which sank off the coast of Dunkirk in December 2002 due to a collision.

Last update: 15/01/2008