“The most delicate operation is to remove the decomposing fish due to the great environmental risk involved” (El Mercurio).
It was the “chiche” of the CPT company. It had cost US $ 20 million, had been made in China with the latest technology and launched into the sea in a paraphernalic inauguration in early October. Seven days later, at 11:00 in the morning of October 18, the ship “Seikongen” began to have problems. It came loaded with 45 thousand Camanchaca salmon, which it had taken from the Pilpilehue farm and took them to Chonchi to continue their growth process. But it began to sink and, at 4:00 in the afternoon of that Wednesday, it tilted and stopped completely, with 214 tons of live salmon swimming in its cellars.
That afternoon, professional divers from the company Oxxean closed the valves of the ship and the points from which fuel could come out. They installed barriers in the perimeter to prevent a spill of hydrocarbons in the area, while the neighbors of Chonchi looked and took pictures.
It has already been 18 days of that. The salmon died and went from being a living load to an organic waste that, if spilled, can generate an environmental emergency of proportions. Their decomposing bodies produce hydrogen sulfide, which in addition to being highly toxic smells bad, like rotten eggs.
Ricardo García, presidente de Salmones Camanchaca, explica que CPT Empresas Marítimas, la propietaria de “Seikongen”, ingresó un plan de retiro dentro de las 48 horas de ocurrido el accidente, y ellos mismos han monitoreado el estado de las aguas en las inmediaciones para evitar cualquier atisbo de contaminación.
But after four versions, just this Wednesday, November 1, the Maritime Governance of Castro approved the plan of action to start the rescue work. These will take 21 days and start by removing the dead salmon from the “Seikongen” wineries, for which they will have the help of Ardent, the Dutch company that was in charge of the rescue and refloating of the ocean liner “Costa Concordia”, which sank in January. 2012 for getting too close to the island of Giglio, in Tuscany (Italy), hitting the rocks and causing the death of 32 people, in addition to the evacuation of more than 4 thousand passengers in the middle of the night.
“We are confident that CPT is being advised by Ardent … We believe we are in the best hands”, says Ricardo García, from Camanchaca.
Why so much delay? Captain Hector Aravena, maritime governor of the V Naval Zone of Puerto Montt and in charge of supervising the process, points out that the important thing is that this is carried out in a more suitable way, because taking out organic waste “is the work of greatest risk ” That’s why he asked for information and technical details to the company.
Aravena details that the plan, which was approved on Wednesday, has three stages: removal of organic waste, after hydrocarbons and, finally, the ship.
Companies deny bureaucracy
Alberto Camacho, general manager of CPT, the company that owns the ship and responsible for the rescue, explains that if they took so long to have the plan ready and that it was approved, it was because “this plan was developed according to all the technical regulations to minimize human or environmental risks during the operation “. It makes see that these tasks take time and exemplifies that when shipwrecked in Chile the ship “Amadeo” in 2016 its rescue took 14 months, and the own “Costa Concordia”, in Italy, almost two years.
Ricardo García, of Salmones Camanchaca, adds that international experience indicates that in order for the retirement to be successful, it must be done with special care and with the times technically needed. And when asked if there is excessive bureaucracy, he believes: “We start from the basis that the authorities involved in this case are doing everything humanly possible to deliver the answers that fall within the minimum time, and requesting actions that are material and important, so as not to interfere with the processes “.
In any case, there are bureaucratic messes. Sernapesca denounced Camanchaca because he had not removed the dead salmon in the 48 hours established by the norm, but the company responds that such death occurred outside its facilities, in a ship of another company (CPT) and in the jurisdiction of the Navy.”Camanchaca can not act freely in the face of such a shipwreck and take unilateral measures, however well-intentioned they may be, but must comply with the norms established by the relevant State agencies, in this case the Chilean Navy.” says Ricardo García.
For now, the emergency is controlled. The ship “Seikongen” is in an area only 10 meters deep, near the coast, monitored during 24 hours by a team of 35 people, 8 boats and modern equipment, says Camacho, CPT.
“In the plans presented by CPT, its execution could take 21 days until the complete evacuation of rivers and fuels, whenever we are accompanied by climatic and oceanographic conditions, and that we do not have imponderables that affect planning,” he says. And he adds that “once the risks of environmental contamination have been eliminated, we will focus on the removal of the ship from Terao Bay”.
Parallel to its task of monitoring the rescue, the maritime authority investigates what happened and who is responsible for the accident.
And the Superintendency of the Environment (SMA) requested that the owner of the salmon carrying the sunken vessel, Salmones Camanchaca, adopt measures to monitor the state of the waste and contain the liquids, organic matter and percolated during the removal work of the dead salmon from the ship “Seikongen”.