Following on from our last update distributed on the 12/11, the offshore team has continued operations in a bid to remove the hull plating above the desired strong room location. This has proven particularly difficult due to the plates physical properties which after analysis were found to be mild steel grade A. Grade A has the highest level of carbon content and makes for a very strong and brittle material; the rivets used to secure the plates together, as well as the structural framework of the vessel, remain in extremely good condition and therefore give the overall hull structure a great deal of integrated strength.

Combined with adverse weather conditions halting operations at site for a couple of days, the above has meant the team has had difficulty in creating the necessary opening needed to gain access below. In total some 55m² of hull materials have been removed, giving partial exposure to the areas below but this is not large enough to work through.

Direct vertical access to the required location is always going to be best policy, however not always possible. Consequently, taking into consideration the difficulties to date and wanting to optimise time at site, the salvage team has commenced cutting into the wreck from a different angle adjacent to the initial hull plate work area. The team is concentrating on removing overburden steelwork which is much easier to deal with due to its level of degradation; once cleared it will allow for a large horizontal access aperture to be made within the wreck. The grab is working efficiently at clearing this initial overburden with regular loads in excess of 20-tons being lifted and shifted.

It is difficult at this stage to put any precise time limit on clearing the area to allow for access as we don’t know what obstacles are under the large level of overburden and how they may still be connected to the wreck. At the current rate of removal, and without any unforeseen challenges, we estimate to take 3 days to complete the task and will then be able to enter where we need to be to commence on the next phase of operations.

At last a substantial weather window has opened and the team are busy working round the clock in order to maximise every moment of available time.