Wed, Oct 27, 2021 12:35 PM

Fishing boat salvage wraps up after three months

When the FV Mistral ran aground mid July it was the beginning of a near three month salvage operation. Photo: supplied TDC.

Staff Reporter

A boat that ran around in Golden Bay three months ago has finally been salvaged.

In the early hours of July 14, rescuers scrambled to a distress call from fishing vessel FV Mistral after it aground at the base of towering cliffs at Kaihoka Point, in the west coast of Golden Bay.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand received a beacon alert from the fisherman just after 2am that Wednesday morning.

The skipper was uninjured and was airlifted out to the Nelson Marlborough Rescue helicopter base back in Nelson.

This was the beginning of a salvage mission that would take nearly three months to complete.

Tasman District Council’s regulatory services manager Adrian Humphries was the regional on scene commander and pulled together council’s Oil Spill Response Team to ensure any potential pollution was contained.

He says early concerns were that heavy oil, hydraulic fluid and diesel fuel could potentially leak from the stricken boat and contaminate the remote coastline, but an initial aerial inspection of the wreck site noted Mistral was fortunately upright and in relatively good condition.

However, just hours into the early recovery mission Mother Nature intervened.

Adrian says the weather deteriorated and forced the abandonment of further work that day.

The spill team was pulled out and a local farmer was left to monitor the situation on their behalf.

It was decided in a discussion with the boat's insurer that the complete recovery of the vessel was too expensive and near impossible.

Adrian says an ocean-going salvage tug would have been required to attempt the job and even then, chances of success were marginal at best.

Access to the wreck site was extremely difficult. It involved a two-kilometre quad bike ride from the nearest track then a 70-metre cliff climb, but nets, cables, ropes and other potential navigational hazards still had to be cleared from the scene to make it safe.

“We settled on a plan to use helicopters to recover the dangerous debris, however this could only be done when the tides were right. We had a window of two hours either side of low tide to get the work done safely.”

Seven planned missions were thwarted by bad weather, but three were successful.

Adrian says the first clear weather window was 10 days after the grounding.

“We flew in specialised pumping equipment and water was removed from the hull, then more than 2-hundred litres of heavy oil and hydraulic fluid were drained from tanks on the wreck and removed without incident.”    

Adrian says during the following two successful helicopter missions around eight tonnes of navigational hazards were plucked off Mistral.

“The cost of the recovery effort was close to 50-thousand dollars which was met by the boat’s insurer. Fortunately, there was no apparent environmental impact and despite the extreme working conditions, no injuries.”

The remainder of the FV Mistral has been left to break down naturally. Photo: TDC. 
The remainder of the FV Mistral has been left to break down naturally. Photo: TDC. 

The remainder of the 30-tonne steel hull will be left to break down naturally.

Adrian says no hazardous chemicals or materials have been left on board.

He says although TDC took the lead, the operation drew on expertise, guidance and cooperation from numerous agencies and individuals.