TasPorts Brings in Heavy-Lift Ship to Salvage Sunken Tugs

The scene alongside the pier after the Goliath struck two tugs at Devonport (TasPorts)

Published Aug 5, 2022 8:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Tasmanian Ports Corporation (TasPorts) is finally set to remove the wrecks of two sunken tugs from the bottom of Mersey River at the port of Devonport, which has had to modify operations because of the location of the wrecks.

TasPorts announced that together with United Salvage, it has engaged heavy lift ship AAL Melbourne to complete the removal of the York Cove and Campbell Cove wrecks in order to return all commercial berths at the port of Devonport to full operations.

The two tugs have been lying at the bed of the Mersey River since late January, when they sank after they were struck by the cement carrier Goliath. Both York Cove and Campbell Cove were declared a constructive total loss.

The incident also caused damage to the wharf, required a complicated clean-up operation, and continues to disrupt port operations, particularly in relation to berthing of large vessels. TasPorts says that removal of the wrecks is critical in order to return all commercial berths at the port of Devonport to working order.

TasPorts, its insurer and United Salvage have had to hire AAL Melbourne for the complex salvage operation after abandoning initial plans to use a special lifting barge, the St Vincent. The barge is stuck in Brisbane and cannot make the trip to Devonport due to unfavorable weather on Australia’s east coast.

“For some time we have been actively engaging on contingency plans if a lift using the St Vincent lifting barge was ultimately not possible," said Stephen Casey, TasPorts chief operating officer. "With the operational planning work completed, we are now ready to enact the plan."

The lifting of the wrecked tugs is planned to commence as soon as practically possible after the vessel arrives in Devonport in the course of this week. The AAL Melbourne travelled to Burnie at the weekend to collect specially-fabricated tug cradles before heading to Devonport. The cradles were designed and built to receive the wrecks and are still suitable for use with the revised plan.

The heavy lift ship is expected to pick up one tug at a time, lift them clear of the water and lower them into the specially constructed cradles.

In May, TasPorts initiated legal action against CSL Australia, the owners of Goliath after a preliminary report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) determined that the cement carrier was in wrong steering mode, resulting in the crash that sank the two moored tugs.

No crew members were on board the tugs, and no one was injured.

Besides being a key entry point into Tasmania for tourists, Devonport is also a major cargo port for the island, handling three million to four million tonnes of freight annually.