Prantik Group salvages Singapore’s Barge at St. Martin’s Island in Bangladesh

Prantik Bengal Salvage & Diving of Bangladesh salvaged Singapore registry grounded dumb Barge MR 3322 (L: 100 m, B: 27.43 m, 4236 GT, built 2008) at St. Martin’s Island in Bangladesh. The Island is a small island covering a total area of 8 square kilometers. It is in the northeastern part of the Bay of Bengal and forms the southernmost part of Bangladesh.

The Barge was being towed empty from Chittagong, Bangladesh, to Lumut, Malaysia, by Tug Glory 3 when the arrival of a cyclonic storm, “Sitrang”, caused the towing rope to break. And in the darkness of the night, strong gale winds of 35 knots speed and 5 meters of wave height pushed the Barge ashore onto Cherwadip Island around midnight, October 25th 2022.

Cherwadip is a small adjoining island to St. Martin’s that separates from it during high tide. Prantik Bengal Salvage & Diving was awarded the Salvage Contract for this critical Salvage Operation on a no-cure, no-pay basis. Being the sole member of the International Salvage Union from Bangladesh, Prantik undertook the challenge as its 35th Salvage operation. Special permissions and approvals had to be taken from several departments of the Government of Bangladesh, such as Bangladesh’s Environmental Department, as the vicinity has been declared a Marine Protected Area. The permissions and approvals were granted based on nil environmental damage and no disturbance to the local inhabitants. The Island has several ecosystems, including coral-rich areas, mangroves, lagoons and rocky areas. Being an ecological hotspot, the situation was quite critical. Being a national asset and the only coral island, the priority was to ensure the protection of flora and fauna of the Island.

Due to rising water levels and high winds, the Barge finally settled in the middle of Cherwadip Island. If left unattended, it would cause severe ecological catastrophe to the Island. The Barge had settled in the spot and remained there till November 10th, 2022, when Prantik’s team mobilized for the site with two salvage barges and three tugs. The objectives were to salvage the Barge without compromising any integrity of the hull and ensure zero environmental impact. Accomplishing this was easier said than done, traditional methods could not be used due to the lack of modern logistic facilities as it is the most remote part of the country, and time was of the essence.

Md. Golam Sarwar, the maverick Salvage Master, used his experience to develop an engineering solution to accomplish all these goals. This was through air balloons, which had never been done for a salvage operation in the country. Twenty-three air balloons and 60 skilled workers were engaged to lift, shift and refloat this Barge using the Flexible Launching Method. The Barge was initially lifted off the ground using the air balloons and the two salvage barges, one to pull the Barge from the aft while the other at the forward was to hold and stop the Barge from gaining any momentum while it was being removed from the aft. The Barge was rotated and laterally shifted by adjusting the air balloons until the heading of the aft was aligned to the marked channel for the safe launching and re-floatation of the Barge.

On the night of November 20th, 2022, the Barge first touched water since being grounded and was safely launched. During the early hours of November 21st, 2022, the Barge was safely handed over to Tug Glory 3, thus completing the successful re-floatation of the Barge MR 3322. This was the most efficient and quickest method to satisfy all concerns and accomplish this critical task. Within two weeks, Prantik has provided logistical support for all engineering machinery and vessels, meeting all of the entities involved, organizing & managing a team of over 60 skilled workers and successfully refloating the ship with zero damage to the environment.

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