[WATCH] Grounded tanker finally pulled back out to sea

The tanker ran aground during a severe storm last February

The Hephaestus ran aground during a severe storm last February an was successfully refloated on Wednesday morning
The Hephaestus ran aground during a severe storm last February an was successfully refloated on Wednesday morning

An 885-tonne oil tanker that ran aground during a fierce storm last February has finally been dislodged and pulled back out to sea.

The Hephaestus was attempting to seek shelter close to the shore during the storm, but was thrown onto the rocks by the northerly force 7 winds before the captain was able to start the engines and navigate away.

Preparations leading up to the removal of the vessel commenced in February, with the ship having underwater breaches to its hull closed off by the contractor before it could be removed.

The ship was pulled out to sea by a tugboat and will now be towed to Cassar Ship Repair’s facility in Marsa.

In a statement, Transport Malta (TM) said that the area in Qawra, which had been declared as a no-go zone will be declared accessible once all equipment is cleared and it is ascertained that there is no impeding danger.

In order to dislodge the ship, Transport Malta said that the contractor had 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, TM said.  

“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 tugboats 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.” TM said.

It said the Hephaestus was now undertaking what will probably be her last voyage, to the contractor’s shipyard in Marsa. 

This was second attempt at refloating the ship this week, after another attempt by the contractor last week. This first attempt did not succeed because 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 is said to have deployed further heavy-duty equipment to be able to make the second attempt this morning.

TM said it had undertaken long negotiations with the company providing protection and Indemnity insurance for the vessel, which ultimately assumed responsibility, and will be paying for, the salvage of the vessel.

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