Wreckage removal: Seychelles Coast Guard and U.S. Navy complete mission
In December 2022, divers from Seychelles and the U.S. completed a mission to remove a shipwreck at the ex-Seychelles Coast Guard pier, clearing the obstruction for the upcoming Port Victoria expansion and rehabilitation project.
The dive engagement activity was organised by the U.S. Embassy to Mauritius and Seychelles in Port Louis in collaboration with the U.S. Commander Task Force 68 (CTF-68), the Seychelles Ports Authority (SPA) and the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG).
Thirteen divers of the U.S. Navy, together with their counterparts from the Seychelles Coast Guard, undertook the task between December 3 and December 23, 2022.
Due to the size of the vessel and the amount of sediment that has accumulated in it, the U.S. Underwater Construction Team 1 (UTC1) divers used exothermic cutting tools to break the submerged wreckage of the Oceans Bounty vessel, which sank in 2018, into smaller pieces. These pieces were then removed from the water.
The Seychelles Coast Guard’s visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and diving officer, Luigi Loizeau, told SNA that it was a monumental task to remove the wreck as it was a large vessel, and had collected a lot of sediment.”
“We managed to cut it from the wheelhouse to the smokestack for the duration of time that the CTF-68 divers were here. Before the team left, the Port requested that a few holes are cut in the hull of the vessel, with plans to have it hoisted,” said Loizeau.
Removal of the wreckage in Port Victoria (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC:BY
He further outlined that the mission was a learning opportunity for Seychelles’ divers as the local team “does not carry out salvage operations as they are more along the lines of technical diving.”
“We are looking to move in such directions, hence one of the reasons why we participated in this event. We got first-hand experience through personnel who actually do this work. We got to see the procedures that are followed, the sequence of events that have to happen, and safety and precautions. I firmly believe that with the right training and equipment, our divers can carry out similar jobs,” said Loizeau.
In a U.S. Navy article published at the beginning of January, the assistant officer in charge for the UCT1’s detachment to CTF-68, Estephan Lopez, said that “working with the Seychelles Coast Guard has been a great experience.”
“They are an extremely professional group of divers and were more than willing to contribute their diving expertise throughout the job. I look forward to working with them more in the future,” said Lopez.
In a previous interview the Seychelles Port Authority’s chief executive, Sony Payet, outlined that “there are other phases that will be discussed with the U.S. Embassy and the Seychelles Coast Guard so that we can slowly remove the other wreckage, ahead of the development work on the port.”
Oceans Bounty is the first of seven wrecks to be removed in the area. During the expansion of Port Victoria, the new key wall to be constructed will reach the area that was cleared.
Aside from the salvation mission, a hydrographic survey of the entire port was also carried out. Through the survey, the relevant authorities are now in a better position to understand the underwater topography of the area, and can identify ship passageways.
A total of over 1.7 million square metres was mapped, constructing a clear, concise, and detailed map of the Port of Victoria’s topography. The UTC1 produced 3D imaging of other identified underwater hazards.