HONOLULU, Hawaii -- A team from the State of Hawaii is beginning their reef damage assessment Wednesday as final preparations are made by responders in advance of another attempt to remove the 79-foot fishing vessel Pacific Paradise Friday or Saturday depending on the weather. Once refloat operations begin, they will continue throughout the day and night for 24 to 48 hours.
Generators, dewatering pumps, and light stands may be operated throughout the night during the removal operations.
A team of six divers from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural resources is assessing the reef as responders finish welding, patching and prepping interior spaces and towing attachments aboard the grounded vessel.
Monday and Tuesday the team worked on the towing bridal and continued assessments and mending in interior spaces. During the course of this work they located and patched an 18-inch crack in a forward bulkhead and pumped an estimated 1,380 gallons of an oily water mix out of the port tank, further reducing the potential pollution threat. Sheening was noted by the responders, sorbent pads were applied however the sheen was non-recoverable and quickly moved off shore before dissipating. In the initial days of the response about two-thirds of the fuel was removed. Despite the removal of 900 gallons of oily water mix Tuesday responders believe nearly 1,500 gallons of fuel could be on the vessel.
Precautionary measures are already in place to mitigate any release of fuel should one occur during final preparations or the removal operations. Oil spill response equipment is aboard the JW Barnes work vessel and pre-staged at the Waikiki Aquarium. Absorbent materials, containment booms, absorbent pads, drums and personnel protective equipment are available for use.
A monk seal was seen on the beach Tuesday, but was in no danger and remained away from the vessel. Responders immediately notified NOAA's Marine Mammal Response Team coordinator and the team continues to remain on standby to address any marine mammal needs should they arise.
"We are refloating the vessel, to get it off the reef and into deeper water," said Todd Duke from Resolve Marine Group. "It is a wrecked vessel and is very dangerous. We ask that the public gives us a wide berth to operate and go about our job safely. There is still some diesel fuel on board in tanks we cannot safely access without compromising the vessel further. We have personnel and oil response equipment pre-staged, in the event a spill does occur we have the means to respond and mitigate it."
The responders will start the removal operations by further dewatering spaces aboard the vessel and pumping air into the compartments of the Pacific Paradise. The engine room of the fishing vessel will also be filled with foam to add additional buoyancy. This foam is non-toxic and similar to what is used in industrial freezers or surfboards. Once the Pacific Paradise becomes buoyant, the responders will continue to run dewatering pumps as they attempt to tow the fishing vessel off the reef and take it out to the EPA-approved disposal site 13 miles south of Oahu where it will be sunk.
A safety zone remains in effect around the vessel extending out 500 yards in all directions. The public is asked to remain clear of the safety zone to prevent injury or impact to operations.
More information will be issued once removal operations commence and progress throughout the weekend.