'Royal Oak' Oil Removal Continues

The Briggs support vessel MV Cameron at work beside the HMS Royal Oak war grave buoy. The Briggs support vessel MV Cameron at work beside the HMS Royal Oak war grave buoy.

A major operation to remove oil from the wreck of HMS Royal Oak continues this summer. The warship was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1939 while lying at anchor off Scapa Flow.

Oil pollution response specialist Briggs Marine has resumed its work in the environmentally vulnerable waters off Orkney to pump oil from the submerged battleship, which is lying upside down on the seabed. The work is being project managed on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence by a specialist team from the Salvage and Marine Operations organisation. Diving work is being carried out by a dive team of 17 from local firm Leask Marine.

The MoD contract, now in its fourth year, is this summer focusing operations on the removal of oil which has migrated to draw-off points fitted to the hull two years ago with the assistance of Briggs.

It is a challenging project for Briggs as weather conditions are a constant concern. The vessel also requires sensitive handling as the attack claimed 833 lives and the wreck is now designated as an official war grave, meaning no diver can enter or disturb the interior.

As well as removing fuel oil trapped within the hull, Briggs has also developed machinery in-house, based on hot tapping methodology, which allows it to cut into the hull of the warship and remove furnace oil from the bunker tanks.

Briggs Marine's asset director Graham Gray said, 'Due to environmental sensitivities and the delicate nature of the engineering work, we only have a narrow window of opportunity each summer to advance the work.

'Over the next month we will continue pumping out oil that has migrated from within the vessel into the accessible bunker tanks.

Everyone on the Briggs team is acutely aware of the history surrounding the wreck and its significance as the final resting place of its crew. As a result, every precaution is taken to disturb the Royal Oak as little as possible.'

Briggs is currently on site with the dive support vessel MVCameron . Additional support vessels MV Guardwell and Josine are also on site along with two sullage barges and a specially trained workforce of 14.

MJ Information No: 19715

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