Operation to recover Thames Tug
The sinking of the Thames tug CHIEFTON on August 12 sparked a major search and rescue operation, and a complex salvage mission off Greenwich.
The following are the Port of London Authority bulletins issued during this difficult, demanding and - with the discovery of a crewman's body - tragic time...
Friday 12th August 2011
At about 1053 today the tug CHIEFTON towing the crane barge SKYLINE capsized and sank off Greenwich Pier.
We believe there were 3 crew members on board 'Chieftain'. Two of these people were safely recovered and taken to Greenwich Pier.
However, the third crew member is missing and a search and rescue operation coordinated by London Coastguard is now underway to locate him. That search and rescue involves boats from a number of agencies including the Metropolitan Police; RNLI; Port of London Authority; and London Fire Brigade. The Port of London Authority have closed the River in the Greenwich area as part of the continuing search and rescue operation.
Monday 15th August 2011
Following Friday's tragic sinking of the tug CHIEFTON near Greenwich, plans are now underway for it to be lifted from the river bed. Boat companies on the Thames near Greenwich should expect some delays during the salvage operation.
Recovering the vessel, which sank on Friday (Aug 12), is a complex task which will require river closures at key stages of the operation.
Divers will be used to get the vessel ready for lifting and specialist contractor's equipment is being moved into position to bring the tug to the surface. The lift will then take place once weather and tidal conditions are suitable.
The Port of London Authority anticipates the operation will be complete within two to three days. The authority wants to ensure the job is done safely while minimising disruption to river services as much as possible.
An investigation into the cause of the tragic sinking, which has left a crewman unaccounted for, is ongoing.
Tuesday 16th August 2011
Initial preparation for the recovery of the sunken tug CHIEFTON has now been completed.
The vessel, which sank after a tragic accident near Greenwich last Friday (August 12), was inspected by divers on Monday night.
A large floating crane known as a 'sheerlegs' - called APOLLO - is now in position above the tug and is rigging the equipment necessary to bring the CHIEFTON upright, raise her from the river bed, then pump her dry and prepare her for subsequent passage downriver.
It is crucial, both for the investigation into the cause of this incident and for wider navigational safety, that the vessel is recovered quickly. However, the lift continues to be a major and difficult operation that will cause delays to river services and require river closures at key stages.
The timing of the lift is dependent on weather and river conditions, but the Port of London Authority anticipates the recovery operation will be completed by Wednesday night.
Wednesday 17th August 2011
A major operation to bring the sunken tug CHIEFTON back from the bottom of the Thames has continued today (Aug 17).
Salvage contractors and divers have been preparing the vessel for the difficult lift.
The diving operation has been based around small ‘windows’ in the tide when the current is at its weakest. Divers have also been working in zero visibility due to large amounts of naturally-occurring silt and sediment in the river water.
A large floating crane or 'sheerlegs' - called APOLLO – was moved into the river over the weekend and was positioned above the tug on Tuesday afternoon. It spent today rigging the equipment necessary to bring the CHIEFTON upright, raise her from the river bed, then pump her dry and prepare her for subsequent passage downriver.
Port of London Authority boat crews, manning specialist counter pollution craft, have been on standby throughout the day to remove any fuel lost into the river from the stricken tug during the recovery operation.
Although river traffic around the site near Greenwich has been restricted, the port authority has been able to avoid closing the river since the day of the sinking – keeping disruption to Thames services to a minimum.
The timing of the lift remains dependent on weather and river conditions. The Port of London Authority had hoped the recovery would be completed by tonight, but work may now run into Thursday.
CHIEFTON sank last Friday and there are ongoing investigations into the cause of this tragic accident. Police, who have been searching for a missing crewman since the incident, made the sad discovery of a body in the river on Monday evening.
Thursday 18th August 2011
The tug CHIEFTON has been raised from the Thames.
The vessel, which sank off Greenwich last Friday (Aug 12), was manoeuvred into shallow water by a giant floating crane or 'sheerlegs' on Wednesday evening.
The falling tide then left the tug exposed on the north shore of the river, making it easier for salvage teams to prepare it for a lift.
During Thursday, the tug - which was resting on its starboard (right) side - was turned upright, by the crane. It is now having the remaining water pumped out of it.
The Port of London Authority anticipates the vessel will be taken downriver where investigators will carry out further surveys to ascertain what caused last week's tragic accident.
Friday 19th August 2011
The tug CHIEFTON, which sank off Greenwich a week ago (Aug 12), has been lifted into a barge to begin its journey downriver.
CHIEFTON was brought to the surface by a giant floating crane or 'sheerlegs' on Wednesday, and was righted and pumped out yesterday in preparation for the move.
Salvage vessels and equipment will now depart the area and navigation will return to normal.
The CHIEFTON is being taken to facilities where investigators can carry out further work to piece together the circumstances behind the tragic accident.
A body, discovered in the river on Monday evening, has been confirmed by police as missing crewman Darren Lacey. The Port of London Authority wishes to extend its sympathy to Mr Lacey's family.
The authority would also like to thank the emergency services and river community for their work and assistance throughout the complex operation to retrieve the CHIEFTON.