TASPORTS has engaged United Salvage to lead the operation to recover two sunken tugs and clean the oil spill after Friday’s incident at the Port of Devonport.

The cement carrier Goliath allided with the TasPorts tugs Campbell Cove and York Cove, sinking them at about midday on 28 January.

TasPorts chief operating officer Stephen Casey said United Salvage would undertake the oil spill recovery phase of the salvage operation, which is anticipated to continue over the coming weeks and months.

“The specialist salvage team has arrived in Devonport along with more than 30 tonnes of equipment to support the operation,” he said.

“A Tasmanian dive team has also been engaged, who will undertake inspections today [1 February]. The divers will commence assessments of the two submerged tugs to further understand the extent of the damage and develop a plan to stop further oil and fuel leakage from the vessels.”

Mr Casey said they were working under the assumption that there is still a large quantity of oil and fuel onboard the vessels, so the inspections would provide valuable input into planning.

“The extraction of the remaining fuel is a critical first step prior to the recovery of the vessels from the riverbed,” Mr Casey said.

“This is another step forward in actively managing this incident and being in this position so quickly after the incident occurred demonstrates the strong collaboration between all responding agencies.”

On Saturday the Tasmanian EPA declared the situation a “Level 2 marine pollution incident”, meaning it is likely to have impacts on public health and/or the environment.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has opened an investigation. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is working alongside the bureau in the investigation.

On Monday, TasPorts moved a third tug moored at the incident site. The Wilga, moored next to Campbell Cove and York Cove, narrowly avoided the allision.