After six months floundering on the bottom of the Shoalhaven River the Christine J has finally been removed.
The vessel was noticed listing badly on February 7, just east of the Nowra bridges and eventually sank, resting on the bottom of the river in about 2.5 to 3 metres of water.
At the time Fire and Rescue NSW Shoalhaven and Hazmat crews placed booms around the sunken boat as a precaution to ensure any liquids that might leak from the boat into the sensitive Shoalhaven River environment were contained.
And it remained there ever since.
After ongoing negotiations with the owners, Roads and Maritime Services engaged a salvage team from Johnson Commercial Diving Services at Port Kembla to recover the boat.
The Christine J, which was previously used to conduct cruises on the Shoalhaven River, was refloated on Thursday afternoon using four, five tonne large underwater air lift bags.
The timber boat was then towed west under the Shoalhaven River bridges to Greys Beach where it was placed alongside the bank overnight.
Early Friday morning a 300-tonne crane from WGC Cranes out of Wollongong lifted the vessel out of the water and onto dry land.
A large crowd gathered to watch the removal.
In a tricky operation, diver Ben Green had to maneuver large slings under the boat before it could be lifted out of the water.
Johnson’s chief operating officer Tim Johnson said it had been interesting recovery.
“We had four divers in the water on Thursday to work on the refloating,” he said.
“It’s been a process. We first did an underwater inspection of the vessel to create a salvage plan to know what sort of equipment we would need to float and rig the vessel safely so we could keep it in one piece during extraction.
“We assessed the size, weight and dimensions so we could correctly put the rigging together and the correct lifting capacity to float the vessel high enough to navigate the shallow water in the river.”
While vessel salvage operations is “not a common job on a weekly basis”, Mr Johnson said the company undertakes a few a year.
Friday morning’s gusty winds posed some challenges, but eventually the 30 tonne boat was lifted from the river.
Despite initial snapping noise as the ship was lifted from the water, it stayed intact before being gently swung around and placed on the Shoalhaven River bank.
“The superstructure on top was quite corroded and decayed but the hull is still fairly well in tact,” Mr Johnson said.
Demolition crews were on standby and used an excavator to pull the vessel apart, piece by piece.
It was placed in trucks and disposed of.
“It’s a shame to see these timber vessels go but this one has had its time, especially after sitting on the bottom for so long,” Mr Johnson said.
The boat had also sunk in early January but was refloated before sinking again in February.
Since then Roads and Maritime Services have been working owners for the vessel’s recovery.