Winter 2019

Ship shape at Kismayo Port

Subtech Marine has successfully completed a complex and delicate salvage operation in Somalia’s strategically important Port of Kismayo.

In April 2019, the team won a contract to remove a 73m naval landing craft which had sank there in 1991 and had been blocking access and limiting the number of ships which could enter the port.

As the main port in Southern Somalia, Kismayo has been the site of numerous battles during the Somalian Civil War. In 2006 Islamist militants took control and the port became an Al Shabaab stronghold until 2012 when it was liberated by the joint Kenyan defence force and the Somali national army which currently guards it.

It is a strategically important route for getting cargo and aid supplies into the interior of the country because intermittent ambushes mean roads in the region are not considered safe. 

"We have earned a reputation for producing great results in challenging, remote environments like this"

says Subtech Marine operations manager, William Moore.

"Our motto is “innovation through experience” and we have certainly used a combination of both to successfully complete this job in Somalia"

"We had good on board security and the Port area is heavily defended by the Kenyan military. Before we started, I visited the area for a site inspection and decided any risks could be mitigated by being self sufficient and not leaving the port environs" 

William adds.

The Subtech dive team arrived (by sea) from Mombasa to start conducting site surveys at the end of July. To everyone’s surprise the dive team found the wreckage of a second 38m missile boat at the site. Limited visibility in the area meant no one had previously been aware of its presence. 

The dive team was subsequently joined in Kismayo by an Alpha Marine barge, tug and crew, equipped with a crane which was able to drop an 11 tonne chisel to cut the two wrecks into 4m sections which were lifted to the quayside to be cut up and taken away.

This was a logistically complex mission for Subtech Marine, as William explains:

"Somalia is a challenging country to work in due to the high threat of terrorism and crime. The remote location meant this project had to be completely self-sufficient and this required detailed logistical planning – there was no chance of popping to the local shops for supplies if we ran out of anything!

"We had good onboard security and the port area is heavily defended by the Kenyan military. Before we started, I visited the area for a site inspection and decided any risks could be mitigated by being self-sufficient and not leaving the port environs,"

William said.

"The team did a great job in difficult conditions,' he adds, 'We had to keep a really close eye on safety as the divers were working around sharp, tangled metal, and having to negotiate non-standard lifting operations performed by the crane."

The operation was further complicated by the presence of large quantities of live cannon shells on the wreck which required careful handling and disposal once ashore, plus a large resident population of lionfish, sea urchins and moray eels.

"Lionfish are very poisonous, and both urchins and morays can be dangerous if you can't see them,’ says William, ‘Luckily no one was stung or bitten although quite a few divers did get spiked by urchins.’

"The team did a great job in difficult conditions,’ he adds, ‘We had to keep a really close eye on safety as the divers were working around sharp, tangled metal, and having to negotiate non-standard lifting operations performed by the crane.

"We used standard safety practice on the job, rigidly adhering to risk identification and analysis on even the most simple of tasks - making sure every member of the crew examined each task before commencement to ensure they could do it safely,"

He added.

The mission was a complete success, with both the landing craft and the missile boat successfully removed in good time.  This clearance work has effectively increased the port’s capacity to handle ship traffic by a third, which is good news for the area and also for the crews of ships which no longer have to risk being attacked by pirates if they anchor offshore. Subtech is pleased to be able to support the opening of this port to enable cargo and aid supplies to reach Somalian people in need.

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