‘Cormorant’ salvages trawler off Dunkirk

The fishing vessel Nieuwpoort 28 was transported to Flushing in Cormorant’s slings. Photo: Peter Buteijn The fishing vessel Nieuwpoort 28 was transported to Flushing in Cormorant’s slings. Photo: Peter Buteijn

Dutch towage and salvage specialist Multraship has undertaken the salvage of fishing trawler Nieuwpoort 28 (N28), which capsized off Dunkirk on 1 March.

Multraship used its recently upgraded floating sheerlegs Cormorant to successfully complete a challenging operation.

The trawler capsized twenty miles off the French/Belgian coast. It was upside-down in the water and the French and Belgian Coastguards mobilised a Search & Rescue operation during which Navy divers searched the vessel but were unable to find any of the trawler’s three crew members. Two brothers and their brother-in-law were all from the close knit Zeeland fishing community.

On 3 March, Multraship was awarded the salvage contract. It mobilised its Multratug 18, which held position while air was pumped into the trawler to keep it afloat. The initial plan had been to tow the trawler to shallow water near Flushing to parbuckle it with the Cormorant. But when clearance could not be obtained from the Belgian authorities to enter their waters with the capsized but floating tow, the Cormorant had to be mobilised to the site of the casualty.

The Cormorant arrived at the site on the night of 4 March and, after divers had inspected the casualty overnight, slings were prepared on the next tide and the trawler was parbuckled on 5 March. The Nieuwpoort 28 was then pumped dry, after which a search failed to locate the missing crew members.

By this time the weather had deteriorated to such an extent that it was not possible to get the trawler out of the slings and safely break up the Cormorant’s four point mooring system. Subsequently it was decided it would be safer to wait for a better weather window and transport the trawler to Flushing in the Cormorant’s slings, under tow by Multratug 18.

On 7 March, the convoy arrived at Flushing, where the slings were removed, and the trawler was subsequently towed to Multraship’s home port of Terneuzen, where it was redelivered to its owners. An investigation into the cause of the accident is currently under way.

Multraship had a team of approximately forty people working on the salvage operation. Its managing director Leendert Muller said, ‘This was a challenging job, successfully completed, but our sympathies of course lie with the families of the missing crew members.

‘The Cormorant is stationed in the Flushing/River Scheldt area and we have only recently fitted a new A-frame and upgraded it to 600 tons lifting capacity. It certainly proved its worth on this occasion.’

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