Final Voyage of the New Carissa

Story by Dawn Buzynski | September 28, 2010

The crew lifts a piece of the New Carissa from the sea off the Oregon coast.

Titan Salvage recently completed the challenging removal of one of the most notable shipwrecks in the history of the Oregon Coast.

Anyone who has lived along the Oregon coast in the past decade can tell you the story of the New Carissa. The 640-foot ocean freighter ran aground 150 yards off the coast of the North Spit of Coos Bay, OR, during a storm in February 1999. What began as a critical maritime accident turned into an inevitable environmental disaster.

The North Spit is a 5-mile-long ecological area just north of Coos Bay. Initially, the New Carissa crew and port authorities tried to have the ship towed back out to sea. However, these efforts failed, and battered by a stormy sea, the ship broke apart and oil began to spill. Oregon's Department of State Lands had to act quickly. The U.S. Navy came in to burn off the ship's fuel in order to prevent a major oil spill.

Subsequently, many attempts to salvage the wreckage were mired by a relentless ocean and plain bad luck. Eventually, the bow was towed out to sea and scuttled. However, the 90-foot stern settled deep into the sand, and there it lay for nine years while the state of Oregon and Green Atlas Shipping, owners of the New Carissa, pursued legal action against each other for fault. In 2002, a jury found Green Atlas Shipping guilty of negligence. Green Atlas appealed, and a settlement was finally reached with the state of Oregon receiving $23 million for removal and legal fees.

In 2007, Oregon contracted with Titan Salvage for the removal project. According to Todd Busch, vice president and general manager of Titan Salvage, the contract was negotiated at a fixed price with a completion date of Oct. 1, 2008.

"They came to us," Busch said. "Experts hired by the state of Oregon recommended that our two jack-up barges were the safest way to remove the New Carissa and ensure success."

Titan Rolls Up Its Sleeves

Founded in 1980, Titan Salvage is a worldwide maritime salvage and shipwreck company that is owned and operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. Titan Salvage has accomplished more than 300 salvage projects all over the world. It is headquartered in Pompano Beach, FL, with offices in the United Kingdom and Singapore. Founding partner David Parrot was project director of the New Carissa salvage project.

Titan spent months preparing for this salvage project. Busch explained that the company's initial plan needed to be modified according to expected weather conditions and requirements from state and federal agencies, as well as the local community.

"We did a survey of the wreckage and work site and monitored the conditions for months," he said. "We also did specialized training for our salvage team. This included rope climbing and fall arrest, due to the nature of the conditions our team would be working in."

Salvage began in June 2008 with the arrival of Titan's jack-up barges to the site of the New Carissa. Weather cooperated enough that the Titan crew, with assistance from local Coos Bay tugs, managed to move both barges into position without difficulty.

The Karlissa A and Karlissa B are jack-up platform barges that provide salvage crews a stable work environment. This is critical, as many times a shipwreck or disaster occurs in treacherous ocean waters, which means working in dangerous conditions. Each barge rests on six 1.8-meter steel legs raised and lowered by DeLong D-6-6 pneumatic jacks. The Karlissa barges can be used in water as shallow as one meter and as deep as 70 meters.

Shopping For New Air Compressor

Titan uses two large air compressors to operate the pneumatic jacks, one on board each barge. Water driven by high-pressure air jetted each leg into the sea bed, and each barge was jacked to 40 feet above the surface of the water. As Titan began to raise the Karlissa A on a Saturday, one of the air compressors failed. Weather provided a limited window of opportunity to raise the barge, so time was critical. Busch said the crew needed to replace the air compressor before they missed that window of calm waters.

"We were lucky that a local dealer, Bobcat of Portland, had a compressor that met our specifications," said Busch. "We obtained an Ingersoll Rand XHP1170 air compressor within a day. We didn't lose any time, and it performed excellently."

The Ingersoll Rand XHP1170WCAT is a 525-horsepower diesel air compressor that delivers 1,170 cubic feet per minute at 350 psi. According to Dave Stahlman, vice president of global marketing for Doosan Infracore Portable Power (formerly Ingersoll Rand Utility Equipment), the XHP1170WCAT is most commonly used in oil and gas exploration drilling and construction drilling applications. Though unique, the New Carissa salvage project exemplified the extreme environments the XHP1170WCAT was designed for.

"The XHP1170WCAT has a standard containment frame that prevents fluids from leaking into the ocean," said Stahlman. "Furthermore, this unit is equipped with an IQ system that eliminates contaminants from the air stream and vaporizes water in the tailpipe with no impact on the environment."

According to Busch, the pneumatic jack system doesn't require oil, which is beneficial in an environmentally sensitive area like the North Spit. Each jack has two parts to it, an upper and lower ring. Each ring has contains six sets of grippers which grab the steel legs. Between each ring are 10 single-acting and two double-acting pneumatic cylinders.

"The cylinders and grippers work in a sequence to raise and lower the barge in a manner similar to a monkey climbing a pole," Busch explained.

Each gripper set has an inflatable bladder requiring 350 psi of air pressure. The main air supply is reduced from 350 psi to 185 psi to provide pilot air to the control values. The jacks raise each barge at approximately 6 meters per hour when the barge is unloaded or 3 meters per hour when fully loaded.

Once the barges were in place, the real salvage work began. The Karlissa B has a fixed, 60-foot, 318-ton Manitowoc rigger crane, as well as another mobile crane on the Karlissa A. Titan's 25-person crew worked to cut apart the stern into small panels. Harnessed crew members were lowered from the barges and used blow torches to cut away at the wreckage. Then cables attached to each of the cranes raised cut scrap metal to stack onto the barge platforms. Hydraulic pullers capable of pulling 300 tons lifted very large pieces, such as the engine, and also stabilized the wreck as the salvage team cut away at it. All scrap metal from the wreckage was placed on a deck barge and delivered to a berth in Coos Bay, where a recycler processed the steel.

The Transporter

Removal of the New Carissa posed many challenges for Titan Salvage, mostly because the wreckage rested in the surf zone instead of open water. The ability for Titan's crew to access the work site posed one of the biggest challenges. As part of the preplanning, Titan designed and built the aptly titled "Transporter." It is a self-propelled basket that ran along 900 feet of cable that extended from the shore to the Karlissa A. The basket is very similar to a ski gondola and can carry a load up to 5 tons.

"We needed a way to get the salvage team and their equipment on and off the barges daily," said Busch. "With the work site sitting in heavy surf conditions, it provided safe transport of personnel without having to rely on a helicopter or boats, or worry about the weather conditions."

Titan Salvage had the luck of good weather for most of the summer, but September brought high winds and extremely rough seas to the site. The crew continued work, however, and the last large piece of the New Carissa, a 200-ton piece of engine, was raised out of the water on Sept. 23, eight days ahead of the contract deadline. In all, 1,700 tons of scrap metal was salved, 600 tons greater than what was originally estimated.

Nearly 10 years after the New Carissa disaster, Titan Salvage accomplished a salvage project that many assumed to be impossible.

"Good preplanning, an innovative approach and a highly experienced team led to this project finishing on schedule and on budget," said Busch. "Along with good cooperation from the state of Oregon and other local stakeholders."

Author Information
Dawn Buzynski is writer for Two Rivers Marketing, Des Moines, IA. Story provided by Doosan Infracore Portable Power, Statesville, NC.