The work in the port of Agaete, on the north west of Gran Canaria, to free the Fred Olsen ferry, the Bentago Express, which ran aground last Thursday night, and transfer it to the Port of Las Palmas has continued now through its fifth day. The fast catamaran had been attempting to dock on Thursday night when a mixture of strong winds, from Storm Filomena, and a reported engine failure left the passenger ferry, carrying vehicles and passengers on board, with one of its hulls ruptured and despite numerous efforts to shift the ship into port, stranded on a rocky outcrop below the water line.
At this time, those closest to the recovery operation say that the highest priority is refloating of the vessel so as to be able to safely tow her to the dock in the Port of Agaete, for initial emergency repairs and sealing of the damaged hull, so that she can be transferred to the Port of Las Palmas for full repair and overhaul, at the Astican dry dock.
Fred Olsen have repeatedly confirmed that the ship is not in danger of sinking, as she is resting on a flat and stable 20-meter platform. The company, points out in a statement, that they have all the necessary resources at their disposal to achieve a successful rescue of the vessel, with more than 70 professionals working at the scene in the rescue maneuvers, along with all of her crew, including the captain and officers of the ship, and the involvement of all competent authorities, as well as highly prestigious national and international organisations in such matters including ITOPF, Ardentia, Subservices, Adventia, Boluda Corporación Marítima, among others.
Likewise, the company has confirmed that they are using the most advanced equipment and techniques that exist in the market, bringing materials and machinery from other countries and continents. Insisting that at all times, they work with the close advice of the ship’s construction yard, Incat.
No risk to the ecosystem
One of the organisations involved in the emergency, ITOPF, have issued a report stating that though there is a fuel leak, it does not pose any danger to the marine ecosystem, as the small amount of diesel released in the accident is a distillate that is considered “non-persistent” due to its low density and viscosity, it was possible to observe a thin superficial slick fragmenting rapidly on Friday and Saturday that was already, say the company, negligible by Sunday.
The ITOPF report further indicates that much of the fuel has evaporated rapidly into the atmosphere during the first 48 hours, with some of it likely to have been dispersed under the influence of wave action and any remaining residues will be absorbed by marine microorganisms that are able to use the hydrocarbon as a source of energy through biological processes, commonly known as biodegradation. The environment, therefore, as certified by ITOPF, will not suffer significant damage as a result of this accident.
Those passengers who were affected by the accident are being informed daily by telephone regarding the refloating and rescue operation being carried out, as well as about the situation of their vehicles and belongings, which they will be able to recover as soon as the ship is at the dock.
The Canary Islands Government General Directorate of Security and Emergencies, has set in motion the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands Civil Protection Territorial Emergency Plan (PLATECA), following Protección Civil maritime accident criteria, declaring an active Alert from 13:00 on Tuesday, January 12, in a preventive activation to “guarantee the correct and necessary surveillance and monitoring” of the ship, Bentago Express, stranded in Puerto de las Nieves, Agaete.
This declaration affects the municipalities of Agaete, Artenara and La Aldea de San Nicolás, all on the north west and west coastline of Gran Canaria.
The regional government are maintaining coordination with the rest of the administrations and the shipping company during the buoyancy and towing maneuvers to take the ship into the port, which are still being maintained.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning Fred Olsen have announced:
“[UPDATE #BENTAGOEXPRESS]: After working hard to regain the ship’s buoyancy, taking advantage of tonight’s high tide and after releasing the ship, we resumed work to move it to port.”
? [ACTUALIZCIÓN #BENTAGOEXPRESS]: Tras trabajar intensamente en recuperar la flotabilidad del barco, aprovechando la pleamar de esta noche y tras liberar el buque, reanudamos las labores para desplazarlo al puerto.
— Fred. Olsen Express (@FOexpress) January 13, 2021