THE operation to recover the giant, 17-tonne barrel of nitrogen, which fell from the cargo ship Lucía B in violent seas last Tuesday, came to an end at 8am yesterday.
The tug which had been ordered out on a rescue mission, successfully returned the lost cargo to Palma where Port Authorities and a Firemen's Unit took control.
According to sources of Maritime Salvage Operations, the tug had made its way to the navigational chart co-ordinates where the barrel had been located by an Italian fishing vessel Eurica. The wayward barrel had been spotted some 30 sea miles north of Sa Dragonera, between 7.30 and 8pm on Monday.
A Maritime Salvage Operations vessel was already in the area, signalling the location of the lost cargo. It was also acting as a lighthouse, fending off possible collisions and warning other seagoing traffic of the presence of the mostly submerged barrel.
The salvage operation consisted of the tug securing the barrel fast to its towing mechanism. The process of dragging it through the water duly began at around 9pm and finally came to a close at 8am yesterday morning, when the tug arrived in the port of Palma with its cargo of nitrogen in tow.
A reception party for the tug was ready and waiting on its arrival, including Port Authorities personnel, Palma fire officers and staff from 112 Emergency services to take control of the container.
Drama at sea
The Lucia B had been en route from Tarragona to Palma when at 5am in the morning of Tuesday, 4th May, a large wave hit the cargo ferry some 30 miles off Dragonera. Her cargo was knocked loose and a 17-tonne container of nitrogen slipped overboard into the sea at a depth of 1'500 metres.
In view of the situation, the captain changed course to Alcudia and raised the alarm at 3pm on Tuesday afternoon. A full emergency operation was mounted in the Port of Alcudia ahead of the Lucia B's arrival and all shipping in the area was put on full alert.
Meanwhile, a group of experts from the Balearic University (UIB) studying the case were convinced that the lost cargo was still floating. Using computer aids, they plotted the coordinates of the container's whereabouts as being 35.2 sea miles from Dragonera.
It was then at 10.30am on Monday last, the Italian trawler came across the barrel floating only 5 sea miles away from where the experts had predicted it would be. The crew of the fishing vessel alerted the coastguard immediately.
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