You are currently viewing Sunken vessel successfully recovered – Mercury Bay
The vessel has been dismantled by salvors after they deemed it irreparable, says Waikato Regional Council. Photo: SUPPLIED

Sunken vessel successfully recovered – Mercury Bay

A vessel which sunk in Mercury Bay last week has been dismantled by salvors after they deemed it irreparable, says Waikato Regional Council.

The 50-foot vessel struck rocks near Motukorure Island – also known as Centre Island – sometime before 3.45pm on Wednesday last week and sank with 1300 litres of diesel on board. The skipper and passenger were uninjured. The vessel had since been sitting on a reef 20 metres underwater.

Salvors had been at the site over the past three days, raising the vessel on Wednesday so it could be easily inspected.

“The salvage team found the hull of the vessel had sustained more damage than first thought,” said Regional On Scene Commander Cliff Gibson. “It was a setback in its recovery, so the vessel was returned to the sea floor to enable the team to put additional plans in place.

“The salvors were back on the scene yesterday readying the vessel for recovery, but strong winds meant the operation couldn’t be completed. Fortunately, winds eased sufficiently this morning for the team to get back on the water at dawn and tow the vessel to Cooks Beach.”

Salvors had determined there was potential for the vessel to break up in the channel if they had attempted to tow it to the marina, so Cooks Beach was considered to be the safest destination to undertake a controlled demolition of the vessel.

“We appreciate it has been concerning for some in the community to see the vessel brought up to Cooks Beach for dismantling. We want to reassure the community that the environmental risk has been well managed and an undertaking has been given by the salvors for all debris to be removed,” Mr Gibson said.  

Absorbent pads were used to soak up any lubricant and booms deployed at the rear of the vessel by the salvors to capture potential discharges after diesel was found to still be in the tanks.

“While the salvage team’s divers had thought the tanks were empty when they carried out an underwater inspection last weekend, about 1000 litres was pumped out and taken away today, ahead of the engines and tanks being removed.

“A minor hydrocarbon sheen was visible during the operation and is likely to have been engine oil and hydraulic fluid,” Mr Gibson said, “and this will break up quickly through wave action with no significant impact on the environment.”

“The bulk of the vessel has now been removed and the salvor assures us that a thorough cleanup of the beach will be undertaken.”

Waikato Regional Council staff had been in close contact with the salvage team throughout the operation, and its Whitianga-based team had been on the beach today.

The circumstances of the sinking itself are being investigated by Maritime New Zealand.