During the autumn of 2019 and during the summer of 2020 two oil recovery operations have been conducted by the Swedish agency for marine and water management, SwaM. During the operations 60 cubic meters of diesel and 88.2 cubic meters of heavy fuel oil (HFO) have been recovered from the wreck. In total, 148.2 cubic meters (148 200 litres) of oil has been recovered from Finnbirch.
During December 2018 the Swedish Coast Guard air surveillance discovered an oil spill at the wreck site of Finnbirch. This triggered an onsite investigation, which in the end resulted in the Coast Guard placing a construction, similar to an up-side-down container, above the area of the spill and preventing further oil spilled into the Baltic Sea. During the time the Coast Guard controlled the spill, SwaM with the support of the Swedish EPA could prepare an oil recovery operation of the wreck.
During the autumn of 2019, SwaM together with JD-Contractor AS could recover some 60 cubic metres of diesel from various compartments in the hull. No oil remained in the tank from the where the oil was suspected to originate, but from other parts of the wreck.
Oil left in the wreck
During the oil recovery operation in 2019 the divers discovered heavy fuel oil (HFO), a highly viscous oil, in two of the port side bunker tanks. Information at hand at the time stated that this oil should have been salvaged in 2007, during the operation conducted by the ship owners insurance company. Removal of this oil was not included in the contract for the operation, nor hade the company equipment on-board allowing them to recover HFO. As these tanks have a volume of 250 cubic metres SwaM decided, after risk evaluation using VRAKA, to conduct a second oil recovery operation, to salvage the HFO in the two bunker tanks.
During a 11 days operation on site 88.2 cubic metres of HFO and 25.5 oily water were salvaged from the wreck. In total 113.7 cubic metres (113 700 litres). During the operation a pump especially constructed for pumping high viscosity substances and heating using steam were used. When the pump and steam was used in combination the contractor was able to salvage all of the hazardous oil from the two bunker tanks.
Cost of the operation
It is two complicated but successful operations that have been carried out on Finnbirch. Complicated, as the wreck is located far off-shore and in deep waters, more than 80 metres. Successful as nearly 150 cubic metres of oil have been prevented from in the end entering the marine environment. In total the cost of the oil recovery operations amounted to approximately 24 million SEK.
- Finnbirch was built in 1978 by the Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea.
- On October 31, 2006, the ship left Helsinki on a voyage to Aarhus, Denmark. The ship was heavily loaded with wood, paper rolls, plywood and steel products.
- The ship wrecked in 2006 in windy weather as a result of the bad weather causing a shift in the cargo on board. Two crew members died in connection with the accident.
- The wreck lies port side down at a depth of 83 meters.
Film from Finnbirch
Film from the oil removal operation from Finnbirch.