Workers fail to remove barge hit by storm

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2011, 12:00am


Workers yesterday failed to remove a damaged barge that came adrift off Tseung Kwan O and slammed into a sea wall next to a residential estate in Chai Wan during Typhoon Nesat on Thursday.

Several attempts were made to extricate the vessel, but Raymond Chung Siu-man, assistant director of harbour patrol at the Marine Department, said a new removal plan was needed because the barge was too damaged.

'It is necessary to conduct further and detailed damage assessment in order to formulate a salvage plan,' he said, adding that the barge was likely to stay put in the next few days.

The owner of the 39-metre-long vessel tried to remove it twice at high tide but failed. The bottom of the ship was broken and five of six tanks used to balance the boat were punctured and taking in water, Chung said.

In rough seas, the barge had drifted about 2.5 kilometres from its mooring in Tseung Kwan O before ramming into a pier at an oil storage depot, then crashing into the sea wall at the Heng Fa Chuen promenade and running aground on Thursday.

This prompted the evacuation of more than 50 residents from the private residential estate.

The vessel's conveyor, used to deliver cement, was at one point six to seven metres away from slamming into one of the apartment blocks.

The ship's owner has been ordered to secure the conveyor, add extra anchors to stabilise the barge and remove 450 litres of diesel onboard to prevent leakage.

It had also rammed into a pier at an oil storage depot

However, the marine bureau said yesterday that the barge, which arrived in Hong Kong in August, was secured and would not pose a safety risk to Heng Fa Chuen residents at the moment.

The barge had a built-in 13-metre-tall structure that Chung said made it easy for strong winds to push it adrift.

It was moored with two anchors and linked to another vessel with ropes, but strong winds snapped one of the anchorage cables while another cable came loose, according to Chung. Ropes linked with another barge were also broken.

No one was onboard when the ship broke off its mooring at about 3am on Thursday.

Chung said initial examination showed the barge might not have been equipped with sufficient anchorage arrangements because its operator probably underestimated the vessel's ability to withstand strong winds.

The Marine Department's director has ordered an investigation into the incident.

The damaged barge was one of the two vessels that broke free from their moorings at the anchorage area as the first typhoon signal No 8 in two years battered Hong Kong. Owners could face penalties if investigations found them to be negligent.

The other barge, also unmanned at the time of the incident, ran aground near the Tseung Kwan O Chinese Permanent Cemetery. Its owner was arranging a salvage plan yesterday.

Meanwhile, a search for the missing yachtsman resumed yesterday, but authorities found no sign of him.

He was last seen waving for help onboard his vessel off Lamma Island at about 6.45am on Thursday before the sailboat was found washed ashore at Wong Chuk Kok.

Aside from causing marine accidents, the typhoon carried on Thursday grounded international and domestic flights, caused schools and businesses to close for the day and toppled trees and scaffolding.