Grounded Solomon Trader Undergoing Lightering, Gov’t Issues Wreck Removal Order

The grounded bulker Solomon Trader is currently undergoing lightering operations, while the Solomon Islands government issued a wreck removal order.

Image Courtesy: Roderick Brazier, High Commissioner to Solomon Islands

According to a statement released by the Korea P&I Club and the vessel’s owner King Trader, the transfer of bulk oil remaining on the 73,592 dwt vessel commenced on March 10, following the arrival of a specialist tank barge towed in from Vanuatu.

Around 230 tonnes of oil have already been transferred, with the remaining oil scheduled to be moved in the coming days.

Following initial estimates that some 70 tonnes of oil was spilled from the 1994-built ship, relevant parties now believe that the escaped amount is higher, something that will be clarified as the response progresses, the statement reads.

The remaining oil from damaged tanks that had been leaking to the ocean through a hull breach was removed and only minor residual amounts have been detected entering the water since. The wreck’s stern remains surrounded by oil spill containment booms. The majority of escaped oil drifted into the open ocean, while smaller amounts have moved to some parts of Kanggava bay and cleaning by the oil-spill response team continues. The US-based salvage company Resolve Marine Group was earlier appointed to oversee the incident response.

With improved weather conditions, salvage divers have undertaken underwater inspections. Further dives will attempt to plug the damaged hull with a view to eliminating risks of more oil leaks. Naval Architects continue to assess the immediate vicinity to progress the re-float plan, with the Solomon Islands government having issued a wreck removal order.

Chartered by Indonesian-based Bintan Mining, the Solomon Trader, loaded with nearly 11,000 tonnes of bauxite, initially grounded on a reef off Rennell Island in the Solomon Islands, near the largest raised coral atoll in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during an unexpected gale event on February 5.

King Trader secured a local tug to try and remove the vessel, however the situation worsened with the arrival of Cyclone Oma on February 10, which pushed the stricken vessel harder into the reef, resulting in engine room damage and the subsequent escape of oil.