- TS Taipei
- Accident date
- Accident area
- 400 m off the coast of Shimen
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Weather conditions
- Product transported
- Dangerous goods, fuel oil, diesel and lubricants
- Quantity transported
- 392 containers, 411 m3 of fuel oil, 42 m3 of diesel and 52 m3 of lubricants
- Nature of pollutant
- Fuel oil
- Quantity spilled
- 116 m3
- Ship / structure type
- Container ship
- 167.00 m
- 25.30 m
- 10.20 m
- TS Lines Co. Ltd.
- TS Lines Co. Ltd.
On 10th March 2016 around 10 a.m., a 15,487 GT container ship, the TS Taipei, registered in Taiwan (Republic of China, R. O. C.), lost its power due to engine failure in the northern coastal waters influenced by the strong northeastern winter monsoon. It was carrying a total of 505 m3 of fuel and oil (411, 42 and 52 m3 of fuel, diesel and lubricant, respectively) as well as 392 cargo containers (149 on deck and 243 in the cargo holds), including 9 containing hazardous substances.
In winter, the northeastern winter monsoon creates rough seas in the area where the ship was. The waves can be as high as 6 m and the wind can reach level 12. In these rough conditions, TS Taipei ran aground 400 m from the northern tip of Shimen where the water was approximately 7 m deep. As the ship was aground, the hull suffered a breach and the ship started to take in water. Part of its fuel was spilled.
All 21 crewmembers on board were rescued from the rough seas by 2 helicopters dispatched by the National Rescue Command Center at around 13:00 and dropped on land. The grounding site was located in a highly sensitive environment containing fishing areas and tourist attractions, and two nuclear power plants. To prevent the pollution from spreading, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) of Taiwan requested that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), Coast Guard Administration (CGA), New Taipei City Government and the ship owner hold the first response meeting at 15:00 at Shimen District Office, New Taipei City.
Protection measures and monitoring at sea
This incident attracted considerable attention from news media, the public and the government, which in turn placed enormous social pressure on the response center. As part of the initial response efforts, the government response team conducted the emergency deployment of coastal protection and response measures such as oil booms and oil absorbent ropes, to protect the coastlines, fishing ports and water intakes of the nuclear power plants before the ship owner’s response team had established sufficient response capability.
In addition, helicopters were deployed for aerial inspection of the site and helped the professional maritime rescue engineers of the ship owner’s response team to board the ship and assess the hull conditions for the salvage plan. The inspection indicated structural breach on the starboard side of the hull, indicating that the ship could not be towed. Therefore, the fuel, oil and hazardous substance containers on board had to be extracted as soon as possible to mitigate the risk of pollution.
Furthermore, the response center continued to monitor the hull and potential pollution on the water surface and along the coastline using satellite, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), coastal surveillance radar, CCTV and other technical equipment, and stayed alert in predicting possible locations where oil might reach the coastline with an oil drift simulation system.
Extraction of onboard fuel and oil
Once the ship owner’s response team was ready to engage in the response action, the government’s team maintained its response efforts in terms of monitoring, evaluation, coordination and consulting. The sea became calm on 16th March. Seagreen Enterprise, contracted by the ship owner, worked together with Nippon Salvage from Japan to board the ship to extract the fuel and oil. A quick onboard survey suggested that the stability of the stern was compromised and, therefore, it was safer to start fuel and oil extraction from the stern oil sumps towards the bow. The extraction sequence started with the diesel, followed by the fuel and lubricant. Oil booms were deployed around the shipwreck as a precaution in case of an oil spill.
However, the salvage team was forced to stop as the northeastern winter monsoon picked up and the water surface became rough on 23rd March. On the morning of 24th March, the rear section of the TS Taipei broke apart and listed 25 degrees towards starboard under the constant pounding of high winds and powerful swells. As the rear section broke away, 2 pieces of hatch covers, each weighing 30 tonnes, fell into the cargo holds, smashing several containers and cracking 2 fuel tanks that were yet to be extracted. As a result, further oil leakage was detected due to the damage to the fuel tank and hull, which in turn caused more pollution to the submerged containers on board and surrounding waters.
In this light, the response center was forced to reevaluate the response plan to reinforce the following response efforts. The ship owner’s response team boarded the ship again on 27th March as the seas calmed down. Oil booms were deployed on both sides of the break in the hull, the starboard side of the rear section and around the stern to contain any further oil spills, and fuel and oil tank extraction started again. At this time, the breached fuel tanks were filled with seawater and goods spilled from damaged containers. Manual labor was employed to remove the goods from the tanks before the fuel could be pumped, which added extra difficulty to the entire operation.
As the remaining fuel was extracted from the damaged fuel tanks, the next job in line was to extract the oil from the lubricant tank which was below the water line in the partially submerged engine room. In the process, the ventilation duct had to be sealed since the pressure prevented further extraction after 1 m3 of oil was extracted.
The fuel and oil extraction came to an end on March 31. At this point, 41.9 m3 of diesel, 295.1 m3 of fuel and 1 m3 of lubricant had been extracted. However, there were still 36 m3 of lubricant sealed in the tank below the water line in the submerged engine room. This had to be dealt with in the subsequent stage of “shipwreck removal”.
The coast of Shimen is rocky with small beaches dotted along the shoreline. At the beginning of the TS Taipei incident, the oil spilled was mainly the lubricant from the engine room. The response center dispatched the government’s response team to initiate the cleaning task for the coastal oil pollution before the ship owner’s team took over. Later, there was a large spill of fuel as the hull broke apart. The most polluted shores totalled around 2 km. There were oil stains on rock surfaces and crevices along the coastline, making it difficult for quick removal. At other areas, there were minor contaminations such as oil-containing garbage and tar balls.
As compensation for the economic losses caused by the incident to local residents and fishermen, they were hired and trained by the ship owner’s coastal response team for the clean-up efforts. The coastal clean-up consisted of three stages. Stage 1 aimed to clean the pollution that would potentially move or further spread, including the coastal oil pollution that could be removed directly, garbage that was contaminated by oil spill and the tar balls on the beaches. Stage 2 was set to clean the oil on rocky surfaces using high-pressure water jet, pebble surfaces using low-pressure water jet, and hard-to-clean oil pollution using high-temperature, high-pressure water jet. Stage 3 was targeted towards restoring the beaches to their original appearance by placing cleaned rocks and pebbles below the low-water line, thus allowing erosion by tidal differences and disintegration by microorganisms in order to remove the oil residue left on the rocks.
From the onset of the incident on 10th March until the end of coastal cleaning on 11th May, 11,937 labor counts were dispatched to carry out cleanup operations and recovered 66,402 litres of oil from the shoreline and 128,039 kg of oil contaminated garbage.
Ocean surface monitoring and oil spill clean-up
EPA introduced UAS, satellite and coastal radar to monitor the ocean surface around the incident site and to implement actions to prevent the oil from continuously spreading. CGA dispatched patrol boats to inspect these waters as well as assist in monitoring and cleaning. The response center, at the same time, requested that the ship owner’s response team hire local fishing boats to assist in monitoring and cleaning. When oil slicks were spotted on the water surface, the hired boats were deployed to clean the spills by dragging absorbent cotton ropes and/or balls or using absorbent patches.
Removal of containers and residual fuel/oil
The container removal started on 1st April as the fuel and oil extraction from the ship hull came to an end. This work aimed to remove containers on deck and in the cargo holds that were not damaged by water. On the front deck, there were containers loaded with cargo, eight of which contained hazardous substances, while those on the rear deck were empty. The priority containers to be removed were those containing hazardous substances, followed by the heavy containers on the front deck, empty containers on the rear deck and those in the undamaged cargo holds.
The removal of the empty containers on the rear deck was difficult since the stern of the ship was listing 25 degrees toward the starboard side. The first requirement was to secure the 40” containers that were stacked 4-levels high. Once they were secured, the workers started to cut the fasteners that tied the lowest level of containers to the deck. The job required extreme caution as the misaligned containers were at risk of fall on the workers instantly at the moment when the fasteners were cut. All 198 containers were removed safely on 7th April.
As the undamaged containers on deck and in the first cargo hold were removed, the attention shifted to clean the fuel and oil spilled into cargo hold #3 and the objects scattered and soaked in oily water.
The space-limiting conditions made manual cleaning very difficult, let alone the use of a skimmer. Therefore, professionals were sent down to the floor of the cargo hold to cut and fetch these oilsoaked objects out of the oily water before the following oil skimming and cleaning could be conducted. After most of the spilled oil and oil-soaked garbage had been removed, high-pressure water jet was used to remove the oil residues on the bulkhead and containers, and the stripped residues were removed using ropes, balls and patches of absorbents as well as saw dust. The cleaning of residual oil and oil-contaminated objects in the cargo holds was completed on 5th May.
With the field survey and witness accounts of entrusted third parties, scholars, experts, local residents, news media and the response center, the Executive Yuan approved the completion of the “response to marine pollution” for the TS Taipei on 11th May, and the MOTC Maritime and Port Bureau took over the response center and initiated the “shipwreck removal” on 12th May.
To remove the shipwreck as soon as possible and to prevent further impacts on the environment, the response center reached an agreement to remove the shipwreck by having the shipwreck refloated and towed away from the site. The ship owner and its P&I club hired a professional crew for this removal task through open bidding, and the joint venture of the Singapore branch office of SMIT Salvage from the Netherlands and APHE won this competition. A fleet consisting of a 1,000-tonnes floating crane, a semisubmersible deck barge capable of carrying 23,000 tonnes and an 8,500-HP tug was dispatched from Singapore to Taiwan for the removal of the shipwreck.
The response team started lifting all the hatch covers on 25th May. With the confirmation of hull stability, the soaked containers in the cargo holds were lifted out one by one to allow the water to drain before placing the lifted containers onto the deck barge. Oil absorbent materials, such as absorbent ropes and fabrics, were used throughout the draining and lifting process to prevent residual fuel and oil from contaminating the surrounding waters. All soaked containers were removed successfully by 10th June.
The salvage team started to remove the on-board living quarters, weighing approximately 650 tonnes, on 11th June in order to stabilize the rear section by reducing the weight for the following refloating and tow-away. The separation was performed with torches and chains. Before cutting, all flammable materials were removed. Once preparations were complete, cutting started on 19th June. After experiencing several chain-breaking incidents, the living quarters were separated successfully and lifted from the shipwreck on 22nd June and placed on the semi-submersible deck barge the following day. The team lifted the 450-tonnes engine off the shipwreck on 1st July and the engine was loaded on the deck barge on the next day.
The removal of the rear section of the shipwreck commenced on 2nd July after the engine was removed. The process involved refloating and tow-away at the grounding site and loading on the deck barge. The rear section of the shipwreck still weighed nearly 3,000 tonnes even with the living quarters and engine removed, greatly exceeding what the 1,000-tons floating crane could handle. The water pumping was a continuous effort on the rear section as the structure was massively damaged and the leaks were almost impossible to stop. However, the team managed to have the section lifted and towed away from the site using the floating force during the high tides on 22nd July. With the floating crane lifting the stern and leaks roughly stopped, the salvage team started to refloat and tow the section away with 2 tugs during high tides. As the process went on, the hull was breached again and taking on water, and the bottom became jammed on the rocks, not to mention a few snapped cables on the tugs. Despite the odds against the operation, the team managed to tow the rear section off where it was aground on 25th July and loaded the section on the deck barge on 27th July. On 1st August, this part of the shipwreck was hauled away from Shimen to Keelung Harbor for disassembling.
Once the rear section of the shipwreck had been removed, the attention shifted to the removal of the front section starting on 2nd August. As the front section still remained water-tight, it was easily towed away from the grounding site after a few days of pumping, on the evening of 7th August. On
8th August, the front section arrived at a dock in Keelung Harbor ready for disassembling. Once the shipwreck had been removed, the cleanup of debris on the sea floor began. On 15th August, the entire response operation to the TS Taipei incident was officially over.
Cedre Information Bulletin N°36: “Grounding of the TS Taipei in Taiwan”
Sea & Shore Technical Newsletter, 2015-2016, n°42-43
Video of TS Taipei grounding. This documentary is filmed and produced by the head of the emergency response group of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Agency (TEPA) and GI Tech.