MSC Napoli Bow Recycling Begins

After the 62,000-ton rebeached MSC Napoli was split in two on July 20 by cutting charges, work has finally begun on cutting up the bow section, which was towed away on August 9 and arrived at Belfast on August 14. It remained at a holding point outside the harbor until August 17 when it was taken to the Harland and Wolff shipyard for recycling. The entire operation, which entails recycling useable parts of the bow and sending damaged portions to be analyzed in order to determine the accident’s cause, is expected to take about 15 weeks. The vessel’s stern remains grounded at Branscombe bay, near Sidmouth.

On January 18, en route to Portugal from Belgium, the UK-flagged Napoli was damaged by the European windstorm Kyrill. The large waves and gale-force winds cracked the vessel’s side and flooded its engine room. Shortly thereafter, the crew sent out a distress call, abandoned ship into a liferaft, and was subsequently rescued by UK Royal Navy helicopters. The stricken ship was then to be towed about 140 miles to Portland Harbour, Dorset, but as the vessel’s list increased and its overall condition declined, it was determined that the ship could not handle the journey. The Secretary of State’s Representative, Robin Middleton, made the decision to deliberately beach the vessel in Lime Bay, at Branscombe, 1 mile from the coast of Devon, on January 20.

During the nearly 6-month-long salvage operation, many different tasks had to be taken care of in order to refloat the Napoli. Firstly, more than 2,000 containers and 4,000 tons of fuel were removed from the ship. Secondly, steel scrap, containers, and other waste materials that washed up onshore were collected. Additionally, around 1,900 seabirds that were harmed by the 200 tons of oil that leaked from the Napoli soon after its grounding had to be taken care of. Finally, on July 9, 58,000 tons of water were pumped from the ship’s holds and, with the help of a big foot barge’s winches and cranes and a leading tug, the ship was refloated, with anti-pollution/support vessels keeping a close eye on her.

However, after a Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) dive survey revealed that the ship was too damaged to be towed, it was decided by Robin Middleton to rebeach the Napoli near the original grounding site, which occurred on high tide in the late afternoon on July 12. The MCA then used three rounds of cutting charges over a series of days (July 18, 19, and 20) to break the vessel in two. The explosions took place on the ship in order to weaken the deck above the hull’s crack so that tugs could pull the ship apart. After the hull was separated, it took the MCA nearly three weeks to carry out its plan to have the bow towed away for recycling.

The most current press release from the MSC Napoli Recovery Center describes the recovery plan for the stern: “Ship owners agreed in principle this week that the contract to remove the stern section will be given to Dutch salvage contractors, Smit. Although dependent upon weather and sea conditions, and the continued condition of the vessel, the intention is to lift the stern section in one piece. If that becomes impossible, then the section will need to be cut up in situ. Equipment is being mobilised and the time line, subject to the above conditions, for a lift is around mid November. A condition of the contract is the ongoing counter pollution measures to continue the environmental protection.” Find the latest information on the MSC Napoli at http://www.devon.gov.uk/msc-Napoli-update.

**Photo: MCA photo of crack in the hull of the Napoli