Smit Completes Northernmost Wreck Removal Project Ever

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Smit Salvage has completed the removal of the wrecked fishing vessel Northguider, which ran aground in Svalbard in the high Arctic in late 2018. At a frigid latitude of nearly 80 degrees, it is likely the northernmost wreck removal project ever completed, according to Norwegian authorities.

On December 28, 2018, the trawler Northguider grounded in the Hinlopenstretet, the strait between Spitsbergen and Nordauslandet in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Her crew put out a distress call and reported that the vessel had taken on water in the engine room, and all crewmembers were safely evacuated by helicopter the same day. The vessel could not immediately be refloated, but salvors returned to remove all her diesel fuel, lube oil and hydraulic fluid in a successful operation in January. 

Lightering operations in the Arctic night, January 2019 (Norwegian Coastal Administration)

The wreck’s disposition, 2019 (Norwegian Coastal Administration)

The fuel lightering operation was essential for environmental protection in sensitive Arctic waters, according to scientists at the Norwegian research institute SINTEF, but officials also wanted to return and remove the wreck in order to restore the site. Exceptionally challenging weather and ice conditions limited the annual window for operations. Last summer, the salvage team attempted to repair and refloat the hull, but ice floes forced the effort to end early, and Northguider stayed in place over winter. This summer, the team returned and cut the trawler into pieces, lifting the scrap off with a crane barge for removal and disposal. A dive team removed additional material from the seabed.

Restoration and refloat mission, August 2019 (Norwegian Coastal Administration)

Demolition, August 2020 (image courtesy Norwegian Coastal Administration)

“This operation has been unique. No wreck handling has ever been done so far north [or] so far away from opportunities for logistics support and other functions,” said Rune Bergstrøm of the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s Emergency Preparedness Department.

The administration has inspected the wreck site, and it said in a statement that it is satisfied with the extent of the removal work. The preparations for taking the scrap back to the Norwegian mainland are now under way. 

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