'A Turtle' Goes to the Bottom

Errant rig 'A Turtle' is towed away from the cliffs of Tristan da Cuna by the anchor handler 'De Hong'.

A long period of anxiety for the residents on the remote island of Tristan du Cuhna came to an end on 11 February when the wreck of the errant oil rig 'A Turtle' was finally scuttled by salvors in deep water well away from their coastline.

The 10,500dwt oil exploration rig grounded on one of the world's most ecologically sensitive islands early in June 2006, causing great concern. Matters did not improve when previous attempts to refloat the monster failed due to poor winter weather conditions.

Prior to running aground the rig, originally named 'Petrobras XXI', had been roaming the South Atlantic unattended for several months after being released by its tug in heavy weather. Islanders discovered the unwieldy object some 200 to 300m offshore while tending cattle on 7 June near Trypot Bay on the Island's southeast coast.

Titan Maritime the salvage subsidiary of the American Crowley Maritime Corporation did a preliminary survey at the end of October 2006 and decided that the platform could be repaired and refloated. A tender for the wreck removal was issued and in December Titan was awarded a 'No-Cure, No-Pay' contract by the owner and underwriters of the A Turtle.

Titan's salvage team arrived at the site of the casualty on 22 December after a 1,743 mile trip from Cape Town on the chartered vessel 'Kelso'. A further team of 20 Titan personnel arrived seven days later on the chartered tug 'De Hong'. Over the next 50 days, the salvors repaired extensive damage to the pontoons and legs of the platform, about 70% of which were damaged in the grounding and subsequent extreme weather. The operation originally scheduled for 30 days took longer due to the additional damage that had occurred after the October survey and the start of the project at the end of December.

In order to gain buoyancy for refloating, many of the heaviest components from the rig's deck were dismantled and removed using cranes onboard and dumped offshore at an approved disposal site by the De Hong. By the time the rig was ready for refloating, more than 800 tons had been cut away. This lightening effort, along with regaining buoyancy in the damaged subsea structures, eventually enabled the platform to be towed off the reef at Trypot Bay on 10 February, some nine months after first becoming stranded. The following day the rig was towed to a position some 10 miles east of the island's Edinburgh settlement and scuttled in 3,500m of water. The disposal site was chosen with due regard to the environmental conditions under a permit issued by Governor of St. Helena, who also exercises executive authority for Tristan da Cunha.

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