Removing containers from above decks
In order to remove the 2,200 containers remaining onboard and recover those fallen overboard, Smit International, in charge of the operation, mobilised two barges: one from Rotterdam, Big Foot 1, equipped with two giant cranes – 500 and 250 tonne lift capacity – to remove the containers; the other, Boa 21, from Rouen, France, to transfer containers to Portland Port.
Removal began on 29 January and was completed on 25 February with interruptions due to adverse weather conditions, in particular from 7 to 14 February. By the end of February, having overcome technical difficulties, 853 containers had been removed from the decks.
Removing containers from below decks
This phase proved to be more difficult than the previous operation. All of the major holds were flooded and IFO was present on the water surface in many of them. Teams of divers had to work in the holds every day to connect the immersed containers onto the crane gear.
The containers had been submerged in sea water for several weeks and many were much heavier than when dry. Some of the containers collapsed during lifting and many had to be drained of water before transfer to the barge. On 24 March it was decided to upgrade the 500 tonne crane to ‘Superlift’ configuration. This enabled Bigfoot 1 to work on all holds without the need to shift the barge. This considerably speeded up the container removal operation.
The last container was removed on Thursday 17 May. 1,351 containers had been recovered from below the decks, out of a combined total of 2,204 containers recovered from MSC Napoli.