July 5, 2005
Debris removal vessel strikes reef
The 145 ft motor vessel Casitas, under contract NOAA) for debris removal in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, ran aground early Saturday morning, causing severe damage to the ship and spilling oil into a designated marine reserve.
Ironically, the Equasis data base categorizes the 1981-built vessel as a "pollution control ship." It was formerly operated as the Mr. Clean II by Clean Seas LLC. The Equasis record shows it as being owned and managed by Casitas Marine Services of 1180, Eugenia Place, Carpinteria, Calif., which happens to be the same address as Clean Seas LLC.
The Casitas struck a reef on Pearl and Hermes Atoll and is taking on water some 1,000 miles northwest of Oahu and 86 nautical miles east southeast of Midway Island.
The Environmental News Service reports that the ship grounded in the Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, which is inhabited by endangered monk seals and other protected species.
Due to the presence of an estimated 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 3,000 gallons of gasoline, and 200 gallons of lubricating oil onboard the vessel, the Captain of the Port Honolulu (the Federal On Scene Coordinator), has taken initial steps to manage any potential oil spill. A Unified Command has been established with representatives from the vessel owner (responsible party), State of Hawaii, NOAA, and the Coast Guard to manage the incident salvage and environmental protection aspects of the incident.
A Unified Command has been established with representatives from the vessel owner, the state of Hawaii, NOAA, and the Coast Guard to manage the incident salvage and environmental protection aspects of the incident.
A Coast Guard press release issued yesterday said the Unified Command was continuing to monitor the vessel.
The crew and scientific personnel have been safely transported to Midway Island by the NOAA research vessel, Oscar Elton Sette, which will stay in the area to further assist as needed.
The Coast Guard National Strike Force Team Pacific, a team that specializes in marine environmental response, arrived on Oahu yesterday from California. The team plans to depart July 5th and, once at the Casitas, will better determine the extent of damages, any threats to the environment and plans for removal of the vessel.
The Unified Command continues to explore options to reduce the threat of pollution from the grounded vessel pending the arrival of additional assets.
A C-130 overflight observed a light sheen extending approximately a half-mile south of the vessel.
A Coast Guard C-130 will continue to monitor the scene for any new developments.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut is also en route,.
The Environmental News Service says the Casitas was en route to Maro Reef and French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to remove derelict fishing nets that wash up on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, smothering the reefs and posing a danger of entanglement to marine life.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were designated a Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000 by Executive Order of President Bill Clinton. NOAA is in the midst of a public process that could designate the 1,200 mile long archipelago as the nation's 14th national marine sanctuary.