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March 8, 2004

Bow Mariner salvage efforts focus on recovery

A formidable array of marine salvage expertise and equipment is converging in the Hampton Roads area to conduct a two-pronged operation to locate and recover the missing seamen from the Bow Mariner and to remove any remaining ethanol and fuel oil from the sunken tanker.

The Bow Mariner, sank on February 28, in the Atlantic Ocean 50 nautical miles off the Virginia coast in 264-feet of water after experiencing several explosions and fire. Six crewmen survived, 3 bodies have been recovered and 18 are still missing.

"One of the main purposes of the salvage operation is to locate and retrieve the missing seamen," said Captain Michael Shuker, Director of the Safety, Security and Compliance Division of Ceres Hellenic Shipping Enterprises, Ltd., the managers of the tanker.

"Naturally the other mission will be to determine if there is any cargo or fuel oil still inside the vessel, and to see if it can be pumped into containers without damaging the marine environment," said Knut Dybvik, Vice President of Odfjell USA, who represents the vessel's owners.

The equipment being assembled includes the 252.64-foot Mystic Viking, a dynamic-positioned diving support vessel that will be the working platform for the salvage operation. The Mystic Viking can stay in one position without anchors using multiple propellers that are computer-controlled using GPS technology. The vessel's crew has been augmented so it can conduct round-the-clock saturation diving operations if necessary. The vessel is equipped with an array of high-tech gear including flexible hoses and pumps that can be inserted into the sunken vessel's tanks to remove cargo or fuel without harming the environment. It is currently enroute from the U.S. Gulf and is scheduled to arrive at the site next weekend from the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, Monday, the 226-foot offshore supply vessel Powhatan is scheduled to arrive in Hampton Roads to conduct a comprehensive visual survey of the Bow Mariner using an ROV - remotely operated vehicle. The ROV, which is controlled from the surface, can take both still and video photography and has the ability to manipulate objects on the seabed. Depending on the size of the opening it also can also be steered inside the vessel.

"The Mystic Viking and the Powhatan are among the most sophisticated vessels of their kind," said Jesse Lewis, a spokesman for Ceres Hellenic. "And their crews are highly trained and experienced."

"If any of the missing seamen are located," Lewis said, "their remains will be treated with great dignity, and will be carried to the surface with care."

Ceres Hellenic and Odfjell issued a joint statement in which they expressed their appreciation to the U.S. Coast Guard for "professionalism and bravery."

"We recognize that the human cost of the casualty would have been much greater had it not been for the prompt response and courage of the US Coast Guard," the statement said. "In particular, we would like to mention the actions of rescue swimmer Dave Foreman, who went into the water to rescue one of the seamen under hazardous conditions. What he did was heroic."

The statement went on to say: "We are aggressively investigating the cause of the incident. We are determined to know what happened, in what sequence and why."

"There has been a tragic incident involving three confirmed deaths and 18 missing seafarers," said the statement. "We think it is important to focus on responding to the needs of the families of the deceased and missing crew, and address the needs of survivors, who are eager to return to the Philippines to rejoin their families. That is where our joint efforts - and our prayers - are directed."

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