The salvage operation was still under the control of the SOSREP and he determined that Portland Port should be the destination of the recovered containers. The SOSREP and the SCU were initially based at Portland MRCC, and later at Portland Port until 10 August 2007, when the SCU was moved to Belfast.
The location of the beached MSC Napoli meant that Portland Port was the closest port for receiving the containers. It did not however have the appropriate infrastructure for container handling. This choice created severe logistics challenges requiring container handling equipment to be brought to Portland from all around the UK and Europe.
The first batch of containers arrived in Portland Port on 1 February and the last batch on 18 May, 106 days later. Dry containers in good condition were placed from the shuttle barge directly on the quayside. Those recovered from the holds, often waterlogged and frequently covered with oil, were placed in specially-constructed bunded areas to prevent contamination of the port areas.
The containers and their content were inspected by cargo surveyors and insurers’ representatives to assess their condition. Being salvaged goods, those in sound condition were the responsibility of SMIT Salvage. A disused football pitch, nicknamed ‘The Hospital’, was used to examine and segregate the containers based on their condition. The dirty containers were hosed down by staff from DRS Demolition and cleaned to remove oil in especially built ‘pens’. Damaged containers were broken up on-site for disposal.
DV Howells Ltd were assigned a bunded area for dealing with containers with Dangerous Goods contents. These activities continued until the end of September 2007. All of the container handling and processing activity was regulated and overseen by the Environment Agency. Certain chemicals required specific precautions or rapid handling, when it began to rain on products which react with water.
Once container treatment operations were completed, the Portland site was closed after complete site rehabilitation in December 2007.