Winning the Iraq Debris & Wreck Removal contract marks a new beginning for Iraq and is a recognition of SVITZER Salvage’s relentless focus on being the best salvor in the world. The high level of complexity and impending danger require teamwork at an unprecedented level.


Located in the Arabic Gulf, the Khwar Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) and the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) have become the focal point of rebuilding the war-torn country. The two oil terminals, located 7 and 14 nautical miles offshore Port of Basrah, are responsible for more than 80% of Iraq’s gross domestic product (GDP*) with an outflow of approximately 3.4 million barrels of oil per day, equal to nearly 4% of the global production. Because of their vital role, the Iraqi Interim Government has initiated a mission to clean up the seabed beneath the terminals. This will pave the way for increasing the outflow of oil to help the devastated country recover its economy.


After an extensive period of negotiations, fierce competition and great support from all involved parties in IJmuiden and Copenhagen, SVITZER finally secured the contract, and since early July 2013 SVITZER Salvage has been on the spot, setting up the operation. Littered with unidentified wrecks, debris and unexploded ordnance, the area surrounding the oil terminals acts as a cemetary plot for remnants of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and the following Gulf War in 1990-91. Salvaging the remnants of war calls for all of SVITZER’s collective know-how and expertise to solve the most comprehensive operation of its kind to date.


So far six shipwrecks have been found in the area, along with approximately 800 ‘anomalies’, varying from car tires, mooring wires, scaffolding pipes, dead man’s anchors (9 tonnes), anodic protection blocks (15 tonnes), bullets of cal. 0.50 to 40 mm, rocket motors and – until now the largest finding – a Russian built SS-15 STYX missile with a warhead of 540 kg. Spread across 18 operational units in the debris field, it requires a multitude of specialised vessels and equipment to undertake a removal and responsible disposal of the vast amount of debris. Two survey vessels, two crew tenders for up to 100 persons, diving boats, supply vessels, cranes and receiving flat top barges are but some of the gear on site. The project is scheduled for completion in March 2014, and by then it will have required roughly of 425.000-450.000 man hours.


At any given moment there are about 200 SVITZER-led specialists in the field focusing on getting the job done. “Keeping our safety standards above all, the multi-national, highly skilled and accomplished team of experts work closely together to solve the many first-time challenges that come with a ‘one of a kind project’ like this,” Salvage Master, Michael Riddell says, proud of his team’s cooperation under the unusual working conditions.

Seconded by Salvage Master, Johan Foks, with whom he shares the offshore responsibility of the project, Michael continues: “We learn every day by combining our specialist skills and disciplines to help each other overcoming the challenges and grow our team to even higher standards.” Considering one another as family truly becomes a prerequisite for success when living together onboard the accommodation barge ‘Kanta’ 24/7 during high seas, cold nights and daytime temperatures reaching 67 degrees Celsius in summer.


Growing the team’s capabilities and experience is not only great learning. It also serves as an example of how we grow our Salvage business. Holding a leading position in both the emergency response and preparedness markets, we aim to grow ourselves to become a leading operator in the wreck removal market as well.

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* GDP is the market value of a country’s overall output of goods and services produced within a given period of time.