Update 3 at 1.48pm

A tanker that ran aground at Qawra Point was pulled out to sea on Wednesday morning and towed to Grand Harbour, six months after it hit the rocks during a vicious February storm.

The 885-tonne, 60-metre Hephaestus was rigged to two tug boats using chains and wire ropes early on Wednesday morning as officials from Transport Malta, the Environment and Resources Authority and Civil Protection Department oversaw.

“For a moment, it seemed as if the ship would only budge a few centimetres and get stuck once more but the technically well-coordinated tug boats changed the angle slightly and pulled the vessel back into the water with a considerable splash,” Transport Malta said.

This was the second attempt to pull the tanker out to sea. An initial attempt made last week failed after a chain connected to the towing wire snapped under heavy tension.

The tanker was pulled to sea by the tugs on its port side, with hydraulic jacks on land pushing on its starboard side.

Plans to remove the ship had stalled for several months following disagreements over who was responsible for the vessel.

In its statement on Wednesday, Transport Malta said that the vessel’s protection and indemnity insurance provider had assumed responsibility and would be paying for salvage costs.

The vessel is being taken to Cassar Ship Repair’s facility in Marsa, which is carrying out the operation. The company has previously plugged underwater damage to the vessel’s hull some months back.


The Hephaestus - which ran aground on the feast of St Paul's shipwreck - enters Grand Harbour on the day marking the arrival of an altogether different sort of tanker - the Ohio - which formed part of the Sta Marija convoy back in 1942. Video - Noel Cutajar.




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