Storms defeat plan to salvage 'Braer' cargo

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The Independent Online
ATTEMPTS to salvage the cargo of the tanker Braer are over and part of the Dutch team trying to recover the oil will return home in the next couple of days.

The storms that have frustrated the operation ever since the Braer ran aground are expected to continue and will have completely destroyed the wreck before conditions improve, Capt George Sutherland, director of marine operations for the Shetland Islands Council, said yesterday. The Braer has broken into four sections and is mostly submerged after 11 days of pounding by high winds and heavy seas.

Almost all its cargo of 84,500 tons of light crude oil has leaked out, although there may be up to 1,600 tons of heavier fuel oil still aboard.

A team of salvage experts from the Dutch company Smit Tak arrived in Shetland shortly after the Braer was wrecked and planned to pump the oil out into a large barge called the Tak Ten.

The company has signed a Lloyd's open-form contract with the Braer's owners, Bergval and Hudner, under which it only makes a profit if either the ship or the cargo is saved.

However, if all reasonable efforts to recover them are made, Smit Tak will get its expenses paid. The salvage operation is likely to cost several hundred thousand pounds. Smit Tak has brought its salvage ship and an anchor-handling vessel to Shetland and the barge has been anchored off mainland Scotland for several days.

A team of divers has also been on stand-by.

A Smit Tak crewman said yesterday that the anchor-handling vessel Smit Lloyd 121 and the barge Tak Ten will return to Rotterdam in the next couple of days. Captain Geert Koffeman, leader of the team, has already returned home.

The crewman said: 'The salvage ship Smit Orca will stay here with four divers. We are waiting for a diving opportunity but it's not the weather for it and it does not look good.'