SHIPWRECKED NORTHGUIDER FINALLY REMOVED: After 20 months of many failed attempts and many lessons learned, shrimp trawler in north Svalbard hauled away in pieces

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The long and dramatic sea story of the Northguider, which began with the rescue of the crew from the waterlogged trawler in the total dark of a December 2018 blizzard at the northern edge of Svalbard, appears finally at an end as officials announced Tuesday the wreckage of the vessel has been hauled away in pieces after several previous failed salvage attempts.

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Salvage and other vessels visit the wrecked Northguider trawler in north Svalbard during the summer of 2019, but ultimately failed in their removal efforts due to unusually adverse weather and ice conditions. Photo by the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

The shrimping vessel ran aground in Hinlopenstredet on Dec. 28, 2018, suffering crippling mechanical failure and quickly listing heavily due to hull damage. The 14 crew members were rescued within hours, and officials were able to remove the most hazardous fuel and materials during the weeks that followed. But hauling the Northguider itself away failed and/or was delayed by unusually adverse weather and ice conditions, and the decaying state of the ship.

But an effort this summer involving seven vessels manned by 80 crew finally was successful, despite challenges along the way, said Rune Bergstrøm, a senior adviser at the Norwegian Coastal Administration, which oversaw the project.

“No wreck handling has ever been done so far north,” he said in a prepared statement. “In addition, so far away from possibilities for logistics support and other functions. The effort has given us a lot of lessons that can be included in future contingency planning for our northern areas.”

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The wreckage of the Northguider, cut up into about 50 pieces, is removed from north Svalbard after a lengthy salvage effort this summer finally ended in recent days. Photo by the Norwegian Coastal Administration.

The crew was rescued using The Governor of Svalbard’s helicopters and the governor’s Polarsyssel service vessel was among those involved in the Northguider’s removal. Gov. Kjerstin Askholt, in a prepared statement, said Svalbard’s strict environmental protection laws made removing the vessel without contaminating the area an urgent mission.

“We are very happy and relieved that the project has been successful,” she said. “The cooperation between all the actors has been very good. It is important that we take with us the lessons this case has given us in relation to future preparedness in our waters.”

The Northguider was ultimately cut up in 50 parts that were then loaded on a barge for transport to the mainland, according to the coastal administration. Site inspections and video reviews by the coastal administration and governor were also conducted to ensure all materials are gone from the area.

The company that owns the Northguider was fined 300,000 kroner and the ship’s captain 35,000 kroner for safety and navigation violations.