EVEN MORE SHIPWRECKED: Trawler stranded in north Svalbard since December suffers major damage; August removal planned


A shrimp trawler abandoned in the northenmost part of Svalbard last December after suffering leaks and engine failure now has severe damage including numerous holes in the hull and is listing at an angle of 75 to 80 degrees, according to officials who say a removal attempt is scheduled for August after the sea ice is gone and breeding season for seabirds over.

“The vessel is approximately in the same position as in January, but was pushed up on the ground as it rested on the starboard side,” said Geir-Martin Leinebø, ship manager aboard the Norwegian Coast Guard’s Svalbard icebreaker, which visited the scene, in a press release. “Breaking up all the ice in Hinlopenstredet is not possible at the present time.”


A map shows the Northguider trawler was isolated far from other vessels, settlements and emergency resources when it ran aground in north Svalbard on Dec. 28. Map courtesy of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

The Northguider took on water and ran aground on the ice in the strait between Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet on Dec. 28, with the 14 crew members quickly in dark stormy weather due to the vessel taking on water and listing noticeably. Removing the ship quickly was deemed not feasible due to conditions, and it took more than two weeks for salvage crews to reach the vessel in order to remove 300,000 liters of diesel fuel in the fuel tanks and other hazardous materials officials concerned major environmental hazards in the remote area classified as protected.

Coast Guard and salvage officials have returned to the site in the intervening months to remove additional material and assess removing the trawler. But Svalbard’s expedition at the end of June revealed ice floes up to two meters thick in some areas, too thick for the icebreaker to penetrate. A remote-operated vehicle examining the Northguider beneath the surface determined the ship, now listing at 80 degrees, has suffered significant hull damage near the engine room’s location.

The trawler’s owner, which is responsible for the vessel’s removal, has hired Dutch Smit Salvage, which removed the Costa Concordia from rocks in Italy following a grounding in 2012 that received global media coverage.

“They not worried that the trawler is on the side,” Bergstrøm said. “They have a simple and solid method to straighten the boat. Then the holes must be welded and patched again. Then the boat will be towed to the mainland.”