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TASPORTS and United Salvage have engaged heavy lift ship AAL Melbourne to remove sunken tugboats York Cove and Campbell Cove from the Mersey River.

The two tugs sunk in late January when cement carrier Goliath allided with the berthed vessels in Port of Devonport.

Initially, lifting barge St Vincent had been deployed from Brisbane to undertake removal works, but severe weather along the east coast delayed the voyage twice, prompting TasPorts to develop a contingency plan in case the journey proved too difficult.

Though a new plan is now in place, TasPorts chief operating officer Stephen Casey said TasPorts, its insurer and United Salvage were continuing to work on the original St Vincent lifting barge option as a contingency.

“For some time we have been actively engaging on contingency plans if a lift using the St Vincent lifting barge was ultimately not possible,” he said.

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“More recently work commenced on operational planning for one of these plans (using the heavy lift ship AAL Melbourne) given the ongoing delays for the St Vincent’s trip to Devonport.

“With the operational planning work completed, we are now ready to enact the plan.”

The process of lifting the wrecked tugs is expected to commence as soon as practical once the 194-metre vessel arrives in Devonport later this week.

It is understood AAL Melbourne travelled to Burnie on the weekend to collect the tug cradles on receiving barge Intan before heading to Devonport.

The cradles were fabricated to receive the wrecks and are still considered the best option for the salvage works.

TasPorts said AAL Melbourne will pick up one tug at a time, lift them clear of the water and lower them into the specially constructed cradles.

Mr Casey said TasPorts has been focused on removing the tug wrecks since day one to return all commercial berths at Port of Devonport to full operations, while carefully managing environmental impacts and safety.

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