By Kathy A. Smith
The salvage industry has always had its challenges, but salvaging vessels today is getting even more complex due to the sheer size of container and cruise ships, especially. While keeping crew and passengers safe is the top priority, taking care of the environment runs a very high second.
“The environmental aspect of salvage has really come to the forefront in the last five to ten years and it now drives the operation, cost, planning and government intervention,” says Patrick Keenan, Director of Operations for Florida’s Titan Salvage, a subsidiary of Crowley Maritime. “When the environmental concerns are primary, you may have two separate salvage plans; one for fuel removal and one for wreck removal. Even a ship that’s not carrying fuel as cargo has its own bunkers, and if it’s a large ship, there is going to be quite a large volume of fuel that may have to be removed before any other operation can start.”
One of the most effective ways to remove fuel from hard-to-access fuel tanks is by hot tapping, a method that can be used, depending on the depths, attitude and condition of a wreck. The hot tapping process involves attaching a flange and isolation valve to the ship externally at the highest location of a particular fuel tank. A cutting fixture is used to cut a hole in the hull through the open isolation valve. The cutting arm is then retracted, isolation valve closed, and cutting fixture removed. Then a suction hose is attached to a connection outboard of the isolation valve, the valve is opened and the fluid in the targeted tank is …
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