January 24, 2019

Last October 8, 3 salvage tugs, the Jason, the Ailette and the Abeille Flandre participated in a rescue and cleanup operation around thirty kilometers northwest of Cape Corsica following a collision between the Ulysse, a Tunisian ro-ro vessel, and the CLS Virginia, a Cypriot container ship, causing a breach in the hull of one of the vessels and oil pollution. An eye-witness account by Didier Arrese-Igor, master of the Jason.

The alert was given in the early morning of Sunday, October 7 while we were preparing the vessel for an entirely different mission. It took us the morning to reconfigure the vessel and board the equipment and technicians of the Toulon pollution response team for a departure in the early afternoon.We took advantage of the journey to Cape Corsica to arrange the installations on board, getting ready to face what we suspected would be a big problem. Vessels of this type often contain troublesome products in their holds. The Jason arrived on site a little after 2 a.m. the next morning. The situation was rather chaotic and the sight of the two entangled hulls was staggering. During the evening of October 8, we made an attempt to separate the vessels in conjunction with the Abeille Flandre. Even though it was not a success, we believe that this operation contributed to the separation of the two vessels three days later under the effect of the swell.

abeille flandre

On that day we received the CEPPOL* crew, who were transported to the zone by the Ailette. October 10 was dedicated to the installation of an anti-pollution dam as close as possible to the breach under difficult sea conditions. On October 12 we began tracking down the fuel spill – 1 kilometer long by 300 meters wide – that was carried by the Ligurian current to within sight of the Italian coast before it changed course for the coast of Provence. Throughout this operation, which ended on October 27 off the coast of La Ciotat, we had to invent technical solutions under frequently rough sea conditions.

The operation ended with a long period of immobilization in Marseille in order to clean up the devastated vessel, the objective being to recover a sufficiently operational state as soon as possible to enable us to resume our missions for the AEM (Government Action at Sea).


* Center of Practical Expertise in Pollution Response. A branch of the French Navy, the mission of the CEPPOL is to ensure both preparation for the fight against pollution and expertise on the strategies of response during sea operations.

Bourbon behind the scenes