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The Seikongen during the righting process, which has now been completed. Photo: Government of Chiloé
The Seikongen during the righting process, which has now been completed. Photo: Government of Chiloé

The wellboat Seikongen, which sank off the coast of Chile with 2,000 tonnes of salmon on board in October, has been successfully righted in preparation for re-floating.

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Salvage experts will spend the next week pumping water out of the ship’s holds before attempting to raise the vessel, which had been lying on its side in relatively shallow water in the bay of Pilpilehue, Chonchi commune, Chiloé.

Yesterday’s operation was attended by about 80 Navy officials, supervisors, and more than 30 employees from salvage firm Ardent, which has been contracted by Seikongen’s owner, CPT Empresas.

Rear Admiral Carlos Fiedler, commander of the Fifth Naval Zone, said: “The ship was straight, that is, it was in a sideways position and is now in a vertical position. Work will be carried out for a week to extract the water from its compartments so that it can float. We estimate that between July 20 and 25, depending on the weather, the vessel can be towed and taken to the port of Talcahuano.”

The Seikongen reaches a near-upright position after more than eight months under the waves. Photo: Government of Chiloé
The Seikongen reaches a near-upright position after more than eight months under the waves. Photo: Government of Chiloé
Government and Navy officials keep a close eye on the operation to raise the wellboat. Photo: Government of Chiloé
Government and Navy officials keep a close eye on the operation to raise the wellboat. Photo: Government of Chiloé

Following the righting, inspections of the ship will be carried out to ensure that the hull is in good condition. “The Yagar Fina barge will be moored on the side of the Seikongen and that way it will be able to support the preparation of water pumping,” said Fiedler.

Three winches, each set to lift 200 tons, were used to pull the ship off its side. The ship will be transferred to the port of Talcahuano, where cleaning operations and waste extraction will be carried out, he said.

Fiedler stressed that the Navy has been monitoring the ship from the start. “At the beginning we were working on the control of oil pollution, which was then carried out by the private companies that CPT hired, and both the Navy and Sernapesca and health and government entities have played an oversight role,” he said.

Starboard hold sealed

Chiloé’s governor, Fernando Bórquez, indicated that one of the priorities is to safeguard the safety of the people who are doing the work, as well as to protect the environment.

Ricardo Clavijo, legal representative of CPT Empresas, said that after the vessel has been repaired, subsea inspections of the hull will be made, and then the process of pumping the water will begin so that the boat can float. “It should be noted that the starboard hold is sealed and its contents will be unloaded in Talcahuano,” he added. It will take four days to two the ship to Talcahuano, 800 km to the north.

The Seikongen, built in Hong Kong last year, was carrying out work for Salmones Camanchacas when it sank. The 11 crew members were rescued safely.

A short video of the operation taking place. Video: Diario La Estrella de Chiloé
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