Cyclone Hola destroys Kea Trader Hold 3, breaches Hold 2: Some oil leaks

The fractured and separated hull of grounded containership Kea Trader suffered further damage as a result of cyclone Hola, which struck the Durand Reef off New Caledonia in the south Pacific.

The cyclone, the second to strike the ship in the past few weeks, caused caused the two hull sections, which had separated and were lying perpendicular to each other, to move back together at an angle of 90 degrees, damaging the forward section.

“Hold 3 disintegrated in the extreme sea conditions that were whipped up by violent winds. This hold had been cleaned, although four stored empty containers were lost. Hold 2 was also breached, with an estimated 25 empty containers and some residual debris lost to the elements,” said owner Lomar Shipping.

Cyclone Hola struck Kea Trader just three weeks after Cyclone Gita struck the region. That first cyclone caused Kea Trader’s stern partially to submerge.

From cyclone Hola, on the aft section two hatch covers and about 17 metres of vertical hull sides were detached from a cargo hold that had been cleared of containers and other materials. These structures were located adjacent to the vessel on the floor of the rock reef.

A single container was detected floating near the site by aerial surveillance on Sunday March 11th. Sea-going assets were dispatched to recover it.

Lomar said that cyclone Hola caused the escape of limited oil deposits and soiled materials from inaccessible parts of the vessel, with tar balls and other material subsequently collected from beaches on the island of Mare.

“Fully trained contractors … have been alerted and will respond and collect any materials that come ashore. This shoreline response operation will continue for as long as necessary,” the shipowner said.

Shanghai Salvage Company (SSC) is to implement a detailed methodology for the recovery operation, under which the ship’s hull pieces willl be lifted and removed intact from the reef as a way of protecting the marine environment. SSC expects to have resources on site within a month.

The week before last Lomar Shipping announced that it had awarded Shanghai Salvage Company with the contract to remove the Kea Trader from the reef. The US salvage company Ardent was previously hired to undertake cargo removal and anti-pollution operations, which are continuing at the site.

Before Hola hit, personnel and vessels were brought as a precaution to safe shelter in Nouméa. Various measures to minimize damage as the cyclones approached included the removal of equipment containing fuel and oil, the securing of materials and the addition of extra ballast to both halves of the vessel.

The salvage operations had been slowed by rough seas during the first two months of 2018, but during a brief period of relatively mild weather 12 additional containers had been recovered from the cargo holds, leaving just 84 of the original 782 containers and flat-racks still on board. Other materials, including soiled insulating foam, continue to be recovered and removed from the wreck. Furniture and electronic equipment were removed from the accommodation areas – with the dismantling of partitions and false ceilings completed on the bridge and upper levels.

Before the cyclones struck, the recovery focus had moved to the lower levels of the accommodation block.

Despite efforts, the storms have had a direct impact on the state of the wreck, including its positioning on Durand Reef, where the newbuild containership has been remained since running aground in July 2017.

The 25,293 dwt was loaded with 782 containers and flat-racks when she grounded on Durand Reef on July 12, 2017 during a voyage from Papeete, French Polynesia to Nouméa in New Caledonia. At the time, the 2,194-TEU capacity containership was just a few months into service, having been delivered from the Guangzhou Wenchong Shipyard in China in January 2017.

The vessel ended up breaking in two this past November and it has since been declared a total loss.