Tragic 'Jack-up' Incident at Milford Haven

The jack-up barge 'JB 104' was righted by salvors after becoming unstable and partially capsized

An investigation was initiated in west Wales after one person died and seven others were rescued when the jack-up barge 'JB 104' partially collapsed at Milford Haven on Saturday 6 October. 

JB 104, fitted with a crane, an accommodation module and other equipment, was working alongside the South Hook LNG Terminal currently under construction. Two crew members were thrown into the water but all seven survivors were quickly recovered by an on-site rescue boat.

One person was hospitalised. A number of vessels were directed to attend the scene by Milford Haven Port Control, including three Svitzer tugs, Port Authority vessels and other rescue craft.An eighth person reported to be the 44 year old Dutch barge master was unaccounted for and later found trapped in the accommodation block.

The four legged barge was believed to be in immediate danger of capsizing completely and the Port Authority closed the port until it could be stabilised. A search for the missing person continued well into the night and he was eventually located the following day by means of a remotely operated vehicle and his body later recovered by divers. Once the port was reopened, an exclusion zone was declared around the damaged barge. A joint Dyfed Powys Police and Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident is under way.

Salvage specialists Smit, which already had equipment and personnel in Milford Haven, was tasked with recovering the vessel. Some of the equipment on the barge had shifted and although there was concern for the state of a 2000 litre diesel tank no pollution was reported. The salvage team succeeded in reducing the list quite quickly but retracting the four legs, at least one of which was damaged, proved more troublesome. Once the latter was accomplished the barge was towed to Pembroke Dock for inspection.

JB 104, owned by Jack-Up Barges NV of the Netherlands, was one of a whole fleet of floating plant and jack-up rigs working to complete the new South Hook gas terminal jetty. Another much larger jack-up barge, the' Buzzard', operated by the same company, was working nearby.

Three days later, two men were taken to hospital after a tug collided with a number of safety boats close to the location of the first accident at 07:30 on the morning of 9 October. It was reported that Milford Haven Port Authority launched an investigation after a collision involving the tug 'Smit Barracuda', contracted to Besix Kier, and a number safety boats. Two people were thrown into the water as a result of the incident, but both were rescued and taken to hospital.

The Welsh Assembly Government's Environment Minister said the fatal accident should not raise fears about the safety of the LNG site. Jane Davidson said, 'There should be no stoking up of fears in relation to LNG. The incident was irrelevant as to what type of shipping uses the jetty. Repeating those assurances that I have been given, I hope, will help reassure others.'

Story and photo by Jack Gaston.

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