17 October 2016

Huge barges grounded on Pulau Hantu, 16 Oct 2016

Yesterday, Chay Hoon shared a sighting of two large barges that appear to be grounded on Pulau Hantu Besar's smaller lagoon. Given that the width of the gap in the seawalls around the lagoon is about 90m (estimated from Google Earth), it seems unlikely that these 50m long barges ended up in the lagoon accidentally.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon.
What is going on? And what shores might be affected by this incident.

[Update from MPA spokesman on 21 Oct: "In the early hours of 16 Oct 2016, there was a sudden squall. The two barges, ‘New Hopper 18’ and ‘H S Hopper 27’ dragged anchors from the Selat Pauh Anchorage and drifted into the adjacent Pulau Hantu lagoon. At the time of the incident, the barges were empty and there was no pollution or injury to the crew. Subsequently, the two barges were refloated during the high water on 17 Oct 2016 and re-anchored safely in the Selat Pauh Anchorage. MPA is investigating the incident."]

Chay Hoon's photos of the two barges inside the lagoon.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon.
 A closer look at the barges that appear to be grounded right up on the shore.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon.
What's happening?

We could not find any MPA Port Marine Notices about work on Pulau Hantu. So where did these barges come from?

From Chay Hoon's close up photos, it appears the two barges could be NEW HOPPER 18 SR 1694B and H S HOPPER 27 SR 3340E which are listed among the work vessels involved in the construction of a pier at West of Tuas View Extension in the West Johor Strait in the Port Marine Notice NO. 45 OF 2016 dated 3 May 2016. The construction of the pier involves piling work, form work and concreting work. The piling barge assisted by tug boats will be used for piling work. And the work was expected to end in 2 Nov 2016.

The area west of Pulau Hantu is designated for 'parking' of large work vessels such as barges, cranes, huge tugboats. Were these barges supposed to be 'parked' here? But ended up inside the lagoon? How?
Boat strike on Terumbu Hantu
Large work vessels on the horizon, off Terumbu Hantu.
Together with a giant hole in the reef, probably caused by a boat strike.

How did the barges end up inside the lagoon?

Barges require tugboats to be moved around. I find it hard to believe the barges ended up in the lagoon by accident. Particularly since the opening of the lagoon is only about 90m and the barges are estimated to be 50m long.

What shores could be affected?

The lagoon where the barges were seen is ringed by living reefs. Both on Pulau Hantu and nearby submerged reefs (Terumbu Hantu and Terumbu Pempang Kecil). I dread to think what kind of damage tugboats and barges can do to delicate marine life in the path of such movements.
Mass coral bleaching at Terumbu Hantu, 9 Jun 2016
At top left, the Pulau Hantu seawall around the lagoon where the barges
were seen, from the living reefs of Terumbu Hantu.
Nearby Terumbu Pempang Kecil also has reefs.
Reefs can be seriously damaged by vessels and boats that strike, squash or scrape them.
Boat strike on living reefs of Terumbu Hantu
A bare area on the reefs of Terumbu Hantu suggests
it was struck or squashed by a large vessel.
Terumbu Hantu was squashed by the MV Nautica a large live-aboard dive boat which was seen high and dry on the living reefs on 9 Nov 2014. We checked for damage to Terumbu Hantu in Jan 2015 and again in Aug 2015.
Photo by Toh Chay Hoon on facebook.

Action so far

Chay Hoon and I have alerted MPA and NParks. Friends who were on the shore have informed that today (17 Oct), the barges were no longer in the Pulau Hantu lagoon. Let's hope the authorities can find out happened and take the appropriate actions to safeguard our living shores.

Thanks to Chay Hoon for speaking up for our shores!

Chay Hoon's original post on facebook:


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