The first step to float the grounded Shen Neng 1 will be taken today, said Maritime Safety Queensland General Manager Patrick Quirk.
MSQ this morning gave the green light to ‘blow down’ the vessel’s breached tanks with high pressure air as the oil recovery process reaches its end.
Mr Quirk said the blow down process would test the tanks were clear of oil
before the Shen Neng 1 was ‘lifted’.
A ‘refloat’ would be the successful outcome of the lifting process.
“We want to test there’re no large deposits of heavy oil left in the tanks. It’s important we blow them out during daylight hours so we can see and capture any heavy oil lost,” he said.
“Each tank will be sounded and separately blown down one at a time with
booms in place to help contain any oil.”
Mr Quirk said the damage to the ship’s structure meant the fuel oil had mixed with seawater making the oil recovery process now difficult once the ‘easy’ oil was out.
“Since the early hours of Sunday morning we were pumping thicker residue with the consistency of cold honey as well as pockets of oily seawater,” he said.
“It appears fuel is trapped in hard-to-access tanks mixed with seawater making it hard to get all the oil out of the tanks.”
Mr Quirk said the weather was forecast to deteriorate in the next 24 hours to a strong south-easterly trade wind.
He said decisions on refloating would not be made until the testing process was complete.
Refloating would also be made on an assessment of tides, and weather and sea conditions. Refloating would be the successful outcome at the end of a series of
processes including tank pressurisation and lifting.
“This is still a step by step, risk-based approach and we are managing it closely,” Mr Quirk said.