Smith, Salvager Of The Seas

Captain Smith also ship captain is one of the few qualified to do the job. His recent salvage was off the Lautoka waterfront.
15 Jan 2020 13:23
Smith, Salvager Of The Seas
The Amelia Earhart TIGHAR Nikumaroro Expedition crew (from left) John Clauss, Andrew McKenna and Captain Jonathan Smith at the Royal Suva Yacht Club.

Salvaging a wreck is not only expensive but a risk to the environment and salvagers, says professional diver Captain Jonathan Smith.

Captain Smith works for the Dive Centre (Fiji) Limited and leads a small group of divers who are hired to salvage wrecks at sea.

Captain Smith is also a ship captain.

His recent salvage was off the Lautoka waterfront.

“Salvage usually involves recovering or refloating anything that is sunken underwater or grounded on a reef or shore. From ships to sunken mooring buoys and at times even aircrafts,” Captain Smith said.

“The most recent salvage was from the Lautoka waterfront of the MV GOTTA GO FIJI, which was patched up, and all the oil and diesel cleaned out from the tanks,” he said.

MV Gotta Go Fiji.

MV Gotta Go Fiji.

It took a six men crew, three months and a lot of money to salvage the vessel which was atop a reef.

“The vessel was there since TC Winston in 2016. Everything that could float or dangerous to the marine environment was removed and the vessel was scuttled offshore,” he said.

“There was not much environmental impact to this salvage.

“There was not much impact because the reef area where the vessel ran aground on was already dead reef from all the pollution from the land in Lautoka that gets washed into the ocean,” he said.

Captain Smith has been diving for 17 years.
Why do you do it?

“I’ve loved the ocean from when I was very young. My grandfather, Captain Stanley Smith was a well known sea Captain in Fiji back in the days,” he said.

His father and brothers were all sailors.

“I used to go out to sea with them from a very young age. Growing up in Lautoka we lived right next to the ocean and went fishing and diving every weekend when we could so I practically grew up on the ocean.

Captain Smith has been at sea for about 25 years, he started off as a Cadet then Second Officer, Chief Officer on foreign going cargo ships operating out of Australia and New Zealand then moving to Fiji as a Captain and sailing around Fiji and the Pacific.

In the past three years he has spent working as a shore based commercial diver.

“I still do the odd trip out to sea if vessels need a delivery captain to deliver a vessel to another country and I fly back but I’m mainly shore based now.

“As a youngster I never dreamt of going to sea and travelling the world and becoming a career captain and diver. I had a chance and I took it and never looked back.

“Moral of the story is never worry about the money in the beginning when you’re young and energetic. When you get a chance to do something go for it.

“Try and get as much experience as you can get. Money comes with experience, not from a piece of paper.”

His advice to boat owners: “Don’t cut back or try to save on maintenance costs because that is your main source of income.

“If anything fails at sea and the vessel gets wrecked you lose your source of income and it will be very expensive to salvage.

Feedback: susana.tuilau@fijisun.com.fj

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