The Salvage and Wreck Removal Conference 2021 revealed impressive industry developments – what you need to know

The Salvage and Wreck Removal Conference has been taking place annually for 24 years, inviting professionals from all corners of the industry to collaborate, discuss, and cooperate.

Our MarineAware team was honoured to attend, not only to be able to demonstrate our newest MarineAware Operations solution, but to witness some of the incredible work being done and participate in globally significant discussions.

As first-time attendees, we were extremely impressed with the insights shared and the authentic debates taking place over the two days. A special mention for Andrew Chamberlain, of HWF and the Chair of the event, for drawing such interesting discussion and delivering an excellently managed event.

Many of the topics explored will undoubtedly influence the coming years for those involved in salvage and wreck removal, or highlighted the changes already underway, so here we have outlined the biggest takeaways that stood out for us.

Some interesting highlights from the conference:

  • Today, shipping presents a new set of challenges for clean-up exercises which are guaranteed to permeate, if not increase, in the future.
  • Polygreen spoke on an often-overlooked salvage issue: waste. Set up in the exhibition stand beside us, we were intrigued to see them dealing with the issue of metal debris and unsalvageable cargo.
  • It was positive to hear themes of environmentalism running throughout many presentations at the conference, with proof of action also taking place.
  • Brookes Bell presented an interesting perspective that, in using local contractors, those enlisted for clean-up operations have the opportunity to support impacted communities and provide wider benefits.

Navigating the risks and challenges of modern shipping

Many of the discussions during the conference showed just how impressive salvage and wreck removal teams are. Every situation is new and unknown, meaning these stakeholders must start to manage unprecedented challenges in a mere matter of hours.

At the same time, the challenges at hand are only getting more difficult. The sheer size of super tankers, for example, adds to the risks associated with salvage and rescue. Say a fire breaks out in one of the containers onboard, responders would have to navigate through tens of thousands of containers to find and tackle the hazard.

The remote nature of many incident locations, alongside the difficult conditions they present, additionally makes manoeuvring massive machinery a significant logistical challenge. Making these matters worse, Covid-19 introduces its own safety issues as crews change less frequently than usual.

The Ever Given is a prime example of these challenges in action. Although danger was not the primary challenge at hand, the size of the vessel meant removing containers and unblocking the canal required uncommon equipment, ultimately taking over a week during which time it blocked more than a hundred ships. The impacts of this incident rippled across the world, demonstrating the global importance of enhanced salvage and wreck removal action.

In spite of these challenges, there are many examples of organisations overcoming uniquely demanding obstacles. The Kea Trader (presented by Skuld and Lloyds SCR Panel) ran aground at Durand Reef, New Caledonia, in 2018 and was beached for almost a year before removal efforts began. The 25,293 dwt vessel, located nearly 100 miles from Australia, could only be recovered by building a barge specifically for this incident.

The general cargo ship Nazmiye Ana (presented by Brookes Bell, Ardentia Marine, and BlueTack) also required similarly extravagant action. After capsizing during cargo loading operations at Port of Castellon in Spain in May 2021, the salvage of the 1,600 dwt vessel involved the construction of two cranes to successfully lift the vessel from the water.

Embracing a responsibility to go beyond good enough

Environmentalism

There is a growing responsibility to prioritise environmental protection in salvage and wreck removal operations. While the demand has originated as public demand for governmental action, many stakeholders in this ecosystem are supporting the change. For example, the Poseidon Principles have been created to promote environmental stewardship in the shipping industry, starting with banks and finance.

Social responsibility

Furthermore, there is a growing embrace of social and corporate responsibility for the industry as a whole to minimise their impact in any way possible, from decarbonisation to data provision and accountability. (Discussed by Tsavliris Salvage Group, Norwegian Hull Club, Ensign Consultancy Ltd, and International Salvage Union.)

How do we continue to rise to the challenge?

The future of salvage and wreck removal was also on the agenda for discussion. Another silver lining of this industry is that, because each incident is so unique, technologies and approaches are always being evolved and improved.

One notable shift is towards quality over cost-effectiveness. There is an effort being made to standardise approaches and ensure teams are always putting populations, economies, and environments first when recovering or containing vessels.

This is something our platforms, MarineAware and MarineAware Operations, are built to progress. Our modelling solutions provide enhanced incident support, the predictions from which can inform salvage and wreck removal strategies, contingency strategies, and future planning, all while enabling decision-makers to consider environmental and population impact.

Read more: The emergence of oil spill modelling for effective response

The most valuable takeaway from this event was that, although the current environment is challenging and is only expected to become more so, stakeholders in the industry are responding in force. Processes are being modernised, tools are being developed, and new approaches are being established to consistently strengthen efforts.

There was a sense of dedication in all those that attended to do better, and we don’t doubt that there will be huge developments to discuss come next year’s conference.

Want to learn more about the application of automated oil spill risk assessment? Download our product brochures

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