A combination of adverse weather, problematic sea states and further deterioration of the L'Ecume II trawler which collided with a Condor ferry in December has meant plans to raise the wreck have been pushed back.
The Herbosch-Kiere Gaverland recovery barge is expected to travel to the wreck site again next week, ready to start lifting operations.
The L’Ecume II fishing trawler sank on Thursday 8 December following a collision with the Commodore Goodwill freight ship off Jersey’s west coast, triggering an immediate search-and-rescue operation spanning 36 hours.
A follow-on recover operation using the offshore support vessel MV Freja also took place in December.
Two bodies were recovered from the wreck and identified as crewmen Jervis Ramirez Baligat and Larry Simyunn from the Philippines, but the third person on board – skipper Michael ‘Mick’ Michieli – has not been found.
Pictured: Jervis Baligat, Mick Michieli and Larry Simyunn were all aboard the L'Ecume II when it sank - Mr Michieli has never been found.
In February, senior civil servant Richard Corrigan announced that the decision had been taken to raise the vessel for both "evidential gain and for humanitarian reasons".
The lifting phase of the operation – involving a 60-metre-long crane barge which arrived in the island earlier this month – was initially expected to take place on Wednesday and Thursday (19 and 20 April)
However, combination of weather, swell and high tides has made the operation difficult for divers, meaning only the remote operated vehicles (ROVs) have been used so far, despite specialist teams mobilising to the site last weekend.
The structural integrity of the vessel – which is lying over on its port side – has also worsened, meaning it will need to be recovered in pieces rather than as a whole structure.
Video: The Herbosch-Kiere Gaverland recovery barge is a 60-metre-long crane barge.
However, the delay has meant this is unlikely to start before 27 April, while search and recovery operations continue over the coming days.
Once raised, L’Ecume II will be transported to La Collette, where it will be stored at a secure location, under States police supervision. A 1,000m maritime exclusion zone will remain in force in the area of the wreck until the recovery operations are completed.
Among the discoveries made by the ROVs this week is that the structural integrity of the vessel has worsened and the steel deck has become dislodged from the wooden structure, making it unsafe for divers to enter the wreck as it is still moving.
WATCH: The dive team arrived last week to conduct trials and mobilise equipment.
Mr Corrigan said: "What we want the ROVs to be able to do is safely secure that or remove it altogether so the divers can get proper access."
He added that the operation was tasked "principally" with locating and recovering Mr Michieli if possible.
"Until we’re able to say that we have comprehensively searched all compartments – and bearing in mind the limitations of doing this 40-plus metres below the surface with divers – we remain hopeful that we will find Mr Michieli," Mr Corrigan continued.
"We expected that weather delays may occur and they have occurred. But the principal change relates to the structural integrity of the vessel and the need to look at things slightly differently."
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