The contractor appointed to salvage the vessel Hephaestus succeeded in refloating the vessel will be towing it to a shipyard in Marsa. The area in Qawra, which had been declared as a no-go zone, both on land and at sea, to safeguard public safety, will be declared accessible, once all equipment is cleared and it is ascertained that there is no
The contractor, between bouts of bad weather and long hours of work, had closed off all the breaches in the hull so that the ship could be refloated. Early this morning, Personnel rigged one side of the ship with chains and wire ropes to two powerful tug boats. The boats pulled away in sync, under the watchful eye of experienced salvage masters, Transport Malta, ERA , Police and Civil Protection Department personnel. After some moments of tension, the vessel started parting ways with the rocks of the coast she had rested on for the past months.
For a moment, it seemed as if the ship would only budge a few centimetres and get stuck once more but the technically well-coordinated tug boats changed the angle slightly and tucked the vessel back into the water with a considerable splash. The vessel dipped slightly down and quickly bobbed back up, demonstrating that the patchwork on its hull did its duty.
The personnel changed the rigging in accordance with the approved towing arrangement plan so that the tug boats could manouver the vessel back to the harbour. The Hephaestus is now undertaking what will probably be her last voyage, to the contractor’s ship yard in Marsa.
Last week the contractor had made another attempt, however a chain that was connected to the towing wire failed and snapped under the immense tension and the tremendous weight of the craft. The contractor deployed further heavy duty equipment to be able to make the second attempt this morning.
The vessel, a 60-metre tanker registered in Togo, had grounded in Qawra, during a fierce storm on the 10th of February. The crew had thankfully managed to return to shore safely after abandoning the vessel. The Hephaestus was not carrying any heavy fuel oil and thus it posed no real risk of pollution. However, the salvage contractor had to deploy a boom to contain a minor diesel sheen after water reached a breach in the hull and a small amount of old diesel seeped out. The sheen remained on the water surface and evaporated. The salvage contractor removed all fuels from the ship, as soon as the weather stabilised enough to allow the operation.
Following long negotiations by Transport Malta, the Protection and Indemnity Insurance of the vessel assumed the responsability to salvage the vessel. The insurance will pay for the salvage costs.