Few will forget the images of the January 2011 Brisbane floods. Pontoons, boats and debris washing downstream in the Brisbane River, and wide areas of the city under water and uninhabitable. As an active and high-profile participant in the Brisbane Port Community, SVITZER played a key role in flood preparations and then salvage and rescues as waters peaked. SVITZER also participated in restoration work both in the Port and at the Queensland Maritime Museum. These actions have now earned SVITZER the Lloyd’s Maritime Services Award. 

On receiving direction that the Port was closed, SVITZER tugs took the lion’s share of removing shipping from the harbour as the river flow increased. Those ships awaiting departure were assisted in staying alongside with tugs on static pushes while others were relocated. Dredges were also moved to safer berths and preparations for the flood were completed at SVITZER’s Whyte Island Tug Base. 

As flood waters peaked the following day, SVITZER tugs and line boats assisted charter boats that had mooring difficulties in the river, as well as yachts and pontoons which had become stuck against infrastructure, including the oil terminal wharves. The continuous stream of pleasure boats, pontoons and debris that passed the tug base were assisted to  safety wherever possible – being towed to Port of Brisbane facilities. At the height of the activity, priority had to be given to those boats and pontoons with people onboard, especially those wedged under wharves and pylons. Heavy lines were provided to assist securing of the upstream vehicular ferry, which was threatening to break loose
and move downstream towards bridges west of the city. 

Remarkably, SVITZER’s assistance included the night-time use of a tug and its water cannon to guide a leaking service station LPG tank safely past harbour infrastructure and out into Moreton Bay. The tank was shepherded downstream from the Gateway Bridge and past Fisherman Islands using the water cannon to keep it midstream. Securing to the tank was not an option as it continued leaking gas throughout the night. The results of this tank colliding with other vessels or infrastructure, quite clearly, could have been disastrous.

As flood levels dropped, SVITZER vessels were contracted to assist with cleaning up the foreshore in the vicinity of Whyte Island, while tugs were busy ensuring the reopening of the port and providing assistance to the first vessels re-entering the harbour. Once again, the sad sight of seriously damaged pleasure boats and personal property had a strong emotional impact on the crews whose personal motivation to assist was overwhelming. Personal motivation and community spiritcontinued after the flood, when SVITZER
offered its support to the Queensland Maritime Museum. The CARPENTARIA Light Ship - which was usually displayed in the museum graving dock, had moved off its blocks and settled on its Starboard side when the dock flooded. Experienced salvage personnel and equipment were provided to the museum, and by mid year, the Ship had been righted and again stood proudly in the centre of the dock. Being so old and fragile, the whole event was a slow and steady process.

In summary, SVITZER Brisbane’s instinctive and largely voluntary contribution to flood assistance included pre flood assistance to shipping in the port, rescue and assistance 
to people and equipment during the flood, and then the subsequent clean up, including salvage work in support of the Maritime Museum. 

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