Nfld. & Labrador

What it takes to remove oil from a shipwreck

It will take a massive team effort to successfully remove the oil from the sunken Manolis L.

Ardent Global has a $15-million contract to remove oil from the sunken Manolis L

The Tidewater Enabler has been contracted to remove oil from the sunken Manolis L through international company Ardent Global, which has expertise in underwater salvage. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Work began Tuesday to remove oil from the sunken paper carrier Manolis L in Notre Dame Bay, and the undertaking will take nearly 140 people to ensure the operation is successful.

Those involved will come from agencies in Canada and the United States to remove 150,000 litres of oil, which sank with the vessel in 1985. The federal government pledged $15 million for the operation.

It's important to remove the oil now to avoid potential pollution in the future, said Anne Miller, regional director of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Anne Miller, regional director with Canadian Coast Guard, is one of the people overseeing the Manolis L cleanup. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"We're addressing the concerns that were raised by the people of Canada, and specifically the people of this area," she said.

Suck it up

Over the next four weeks a salvage vessel, Tidewater Enabler, will pump oil from the wreck, which lies in 70 metres of water near Change Islands on Newfoundland's northeast coast.

Crews have been testing equipment now that it is on site with hopes of beginning to recover the oil in the next few days.

The coast guard will be tasked with taking preventive measures on the surface in the event any oil might spill during the removal process.

Ardent Global also salvaged Costa Concordia

Ardent Global will handle the removal itself. The company specializes in shipwreck removal — it's the same company that successfully refloated the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which went ashore in Italy in 2012 — and was awarded the $15 million contract in April.

Instead of divers however, the company will be using remotely operated underwater vehicles, or ROVs. This will increase the safety of the operation but also allow for longer dives.

"It limits the time you can spend on the bottom, the amount of work that can be achieved in a day," Miller said about using human divers instead of robots.

"But also there's a larger risk, a safety risk."

The coast guard will be a big part of a massive operation in Notre Dame Bay as oil is pumped from a sunken paper carrier. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

With a command centre, a salvage vessel, the Canadian Coast Guard acting as a buffer and the 140 people involved in the oil's removal, it's all about protecting the environment and the fishery after a 2013 storm caused small leaks in the wreck where oil escaped, according to Miller.

"It's important to the people that live here, the stakeholders, the local communities, and the risk it exposes them to in their economy."

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