Contractors working to refloat sunken farm vessel

Boat on a calm loch with mountains behind

Work is underway to recover a Scottish Sea Farms landing craft that sank last Thursday.

The Julie-Anne was at its mooring at the Fiunary salmon farm, in the Sound of Mull of Scotland’s west coast when the incident occurred.

So far there is no clear explanation of why the vessel, which had no-one on board at the time, sank. It is hoped that it will be refloated in the next few days.

Divers from the Jifmar Group have been working to secure the wreck and prevent further oil spillage. They have reportedly found the vessel to be sitting upright on the seabed with no obvious cause for the sinking.

When the incident occurred, Scottish Sea farms immediately notified the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Marine Engineers Certifying Authority (MECAL), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

On the advice of the MCA, the company also enlisted the assistance of environmental services specialists Briggs Marine.

A recovery plan, prepared by Jifmar Group, and an environmental protection plan, drafted by Briggs Marine, are now with the MCA for review. If approved, the plans will see Scottish Sea Farms commence the process of extracting the fuel from the vessel, before refloating it.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said: “SEPA received reports of a sunken vessel at a Scottish Sea Farms site near Fiunary from the coastguard and operator on Thursday 4 July.

“The operator placed booms in the water to contain any potential pollution and prevent dispersal, and divers have been monitoring the vessel to check for and plug leaks. While a small fuel leakage was initially observed, this has been contained and no further pollution has been recorded. The operator will continue to apply mitigation measures before the vessel is recovered.

“We continue to liaise with the operator and Marine Directorate as we monitor the situation closely to ensure any potential environmental impacts are limited. Members of the public can report environmental impacts online at sepa.org.uk/report.”

map

Scottish Sea Farms’ Fiunary site, showing workboat transit route

Securing leaks is the priority

Scottish Sea Farms’ Head of Health & Safety Gerry McCormick said: “We are incredibly grateful to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for their advice, guidance and support.

“Our immediate priority, with the assistance of specialist divers and environmental services, has been to check for any potential fuel leaks, seal any areas found to be releasing small quantities of fuel, and re-check these multiple times daily. As an added precaution, we have also deployed oil booms around the incident area.

“Our collective focus now is on removing the fuel and refloating the vessel – a first for Scottish Sea Farms in close to 25 years of farming – which we hope to have done within the week, after which we will carry out a full and thorough inspection.”

Meanwhile, divers have been returning to the site daily to check for any new emission points, stopping and sealing further small releases of oil, and to retrieve any debris.

Scottish Sea Farms staff are monitoring the nearby coastline to assess any potential environmental impact, aided by intelligence from modelling of the area covering tidal and current conditions.

The MCA has also flown surveillance flights over the incident area to help assess the situation.

Scottish Seafarms’ Fiunary site consists of eight x 120m circumference salmon pens, with an accompanying feed barge. The company is currently consulting with the local community on plans to replace the pens with nine larger pens which would be further apart to maximise water flow.

The Julie Anne is a 14.95m long by 5.6m wide landing craft with an engine capacity of 236kw. It was built by Macduff Shipyards and brought into service in 2015.

Scottish Sea Farms said the vessel has a complete service and maintenance history and is fully certified by MECAL, the international marine consultancy and certifying authority, with the last inspection taking place around a month before the incident. Engineers were on board as recently as Wednesday 3 July to check and change oils and filters.

The operation to raise the vessel will just be the start of an investigation to solve the mystery of how it sank.

 

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