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Satellital photo of Montevideo port (Google Map)

Plan to remove 1,600 tons of sunken ships reactivated

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Friday, January 14, 2022, 07:00 (GMT + 9)

The National Port Administration (ANP) agreed with the Christophersen group to scrap 16 ships located in the bay of Montevideo.

In the last 30 years, the port of Montevideo was transformed into a ship graveyard. Some 50 vessels, most of them fishing, transformed part of the port area into an island of iron, with rusty hulls, radio and radar antennas, turrets, etc.

Many of these ships are listed on the seabed, while others barely float. Those ships, which were left there due to disputes between their foreign owners and employees or with other companies, have fuel in their tanks or other polluting liquids in cold chambers.

Photo: ANP/UY

Scrap ships also spoil the Montevideo bay landscape, as they are just a short distance from where cruise ships dock at a time when the country is targeting first-world passenger VIP tourism.

In addition to their environmental impact and visual pollution, some of these vessels hinder navigation.

During the previous administration, the then Transport Minister, Víctor Rossi (Frente Amplio) tried to solve the problem.

In 2019, the National Port Administration (ANP) signed a contract with the companies Movilex Recycling Uruguay SRL, Movilex Recycling Latam S.A. and Movilex Recycling España SL to take care of the removal and scrapping of 20 vessels and ship wrecks located in the port of Montevideo.

These companies were the winners of a public tender created to clean up the area known as the "ship graveyard."

All the vessels to be scrapped are located in the internal bay of the port, in an area previously called the anteport and the proposal presented together by the companies was 150 thousand dollars per ship, as reported by the Presidency of the Republic on its website. .

The tender specifications indicated that the scrapping work would be carried out in the area of ​​Puntas de Sayago and to begin it should be taken into account that some ships are afloat but others must be refloated and lightened to enter the port of Puntas de Sayago with the appropriate draft. The average abandoned ship is about 50 meters long and another five meters deep in loaded condition.

Photo: ANP/UY

Scrap metal wholesale

The Movilex company granted the Fewell firm, a member of the Christophersen Group (CHR Group), a contract for the scrapping of 22 sunken ships, the director of the National Port Administration (ANP), Juan Curbelo (National Party), explained to El País. “Movilex has already scrapped four ships. Now Fewell is starting up. We are beginning to solve an endemic problem in the port of Montevideo that is between 20 and 30 years old ”, explained the chief.

The sunken ships in the bay of Montevideo will be refloated by Fewell and towed to the port of Puntas de Sayago belonging to the ANP. There, the Fewell company installed a crane that has 120 tons of force.

On Monday the 1st and Wednesday the 3rd, the crane pulled two huge vessels to be scrapped by sophisticated machines. They were the fishing boats “DAE Kwang N ° 3” and “Rosstar”. One of the machines used in the scrapping of ships is a kind of scissors with diamond tips that cut them from the decks to the bottom as if they were made of paper.

Oscar Gómez, director of Fewell, explained to El País that this machine operates like a giant shear. “We also have another team that cuts the boat in half from bow to stern. Then the metal obtained is loaded into containers and sold to the local industry ”, explained Gómez.

At this moment, in the port of Montevideo there are fifty abandoned ships. “Of that number of vessels left by their owners, 40 are already owned by the State. There are another 12 or 15 vessels that still belong to private companies, "said Curbelo. And he added: “In this first stage, Fewell will have to refloat and transfer another 16 vessels to the port of Puntas de Sayago. At an average of 400 tons per ship, some 1,600 tons of steel will be extracted from the Montevideo port. In a second stage, another 20 ships will be scrapped ".

Fewell's manager, Antony Zuanich, confirmed Curbelo's statements. “It is time to clean the port. We have the tools to do it. For example, this afternoon (on Wednesday the 5th) we will scrap a 20-ton fishing vessel, " he explained. And he added: "We are very excited to solve a problem in the port of Montevideo that goes back many years."

Photo: ANP/UY

Complex files

The process for the State to dispose of the abandoned vessels in the port is complex from the legal point of view. The ship must be declared abandoned by the Justice so that the State can decide on its final destination. 

Another element that complicates the scrapping process is that several state agencies have an opinion on the ship: the National Directorate for the Environment (Dinama), the Prefecture and the IMM.

An important chapter in the refloating stage of the ship is the management of the accumulated garbage. Thousands of kilos of wood, plastics and foam are extracted. The Fewell company carries out a traceability of the garbage and metallic elements. It also pays special attention to the removal of thousands of liters of liquid waste that are extracted from each vessel.

Author / Source: Eduardo Barreneche / El País (article available only in spanish)

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