KARACHI: The happiness of the re-flotation team trying to get the beached cargo ship Heng Tong 77 back to sea turned out to be short-lived on Tuesday as the ship, after successfully moving about 350 to 400 meters seaward, returned to get stuck again at a new part of the Seaview beach.

The re-flotation operation, said to be the responsibility of ship’s owners, was being planned for days.

The work was started on August 22 when the waves were particularly big and strong during high tide.

All the groundwork for the operation had been prepared and laid out successfully. The barge with crane and winch, which was placed on the beach near the ship for some days now, was pulled by the tugboat Harmony to be anchored in the sea at about 1,000m from the ship.

In addition, there were two more winches installed on the beach with towing rope and cables and chains to pull the ship out. All this work was carried out on Aug 22.

A day later, on Aug 23, when they tried to pull the ship out, they were only able to do so for about 150m. During this process the ship also started its engines though still stuck in the sand its propellers could not work fully. Work then was stopped, though after the ship had turned its bridge towards the sea.

It was resumed again on Tuesday. And at the peak of high tide, at around noon, the ship everyone had been so sure about not being able to get to the port and harbour after being stuck for over a month, surprised everyone by actually moving and picking up speed as it became buoyant to head out to high waters.

At first there was much rejoicing on the beach. The people were cheering and chanting slogans.

Altaf Ghanchi, owner of Ayan Ship Breakers, who has been hired by the shipowners to carry out the re-flotation operation, was so happy.

“We came here eight days after Eid. We were given a contract by a Dubai-based company to help Heng Tong out of here,” he said.

While he was talking, bad luck again befell Heng Tong.

The ship was found to be drifting back to the beach though it had turned about 90 degrees. It was almost out and away but the barge and the tug boats working at pulling it were not fast enough to get out of its way. They came in its way and caused it to break its momentum. As a result, the cables holding the ship broke and the high tides that had helped Heng Tong become buoyant again pushed it back to the beach.

Captain Asim Iqbal, the shipping agent involved in the operation, told Dawn later the ship for now was back at a new part of the beach.

“The incident has shown us that the ship can be pulled. We will not give up,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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