Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Operation begins to salvage sunken fishing vessel Jubilee

Two ships will be used for the recovery of the fishing trawler Jubilee. Photo / Supplied
Two ships will be used for the recovery of the fishing trawler Jubilee. Photo / Supplied

An attempt to salvage a ship that sank off the Canterbury coast last October with the loss of three lives will be made this weekend.

The 90-tonne fishing vessel Jubilee sent out a distress signal on October 18 after being caught in a brutal storm.

Fishermen Jared Reese Husband, Paul Russell Bennett and Terry Donald Booth were on board.

The bodies were later recovered by the navy's operational diving team.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission opened an inquiry into the sinking late last year so any safety lessons learned can be passed on to the industry.

Chief investigator Captain Tim Burfoot today said commission investigators had carried out a number of interviews and scanned footage of key components of the ship, which is lying on the seabed in 45m of water 22km off the Canterbury coast.

"The commission has reviewed the evidence we have got thus far and believe the recovery of the vessel will allow our investigators a better opportunity to examine the entire vessel and some key components in situ," Captain Burfoot said.

"This will give the commission the best chance of understanding what went wrong and making recommendations to prevent a recurrence."

Captain Burfoot said the families of the three men who lost their lives had been briefed, and the commission had also been in communication with local iwi.

The salvage will be undertaken by New Zealand Diving and Salvage, a Wellington-based company with considerable experience in salvage operations, including recent work on the Rena wreck site off Tauranga.

Two ships will be used for the recovery. One will conduct the dive operation and provide the tow, the other will act as a support vessel. The plan is to use large air bags to lift the Jubilee from the seabed, then re-float and tow it to Port Lyttelton.

Captain Burfoot said the total recovery operation could take three to five days.

"This is a complex operation that will depend on calm weather and sea conditions and to some extent, the condition of the Jubilee," he said.

He said the salvor had contingency plans in place to deal with any contaminants on the vessel.

"We have been very mindful of this issue throughout the planning process."

- NZ Herald

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