Two floating cranes raised the 140-foot sunken fishing vessel Deep Sea to the surface of Penn Cove on Sunday June 3.
The lift capped an intensive multi-agency response to protect the area’s shellfish and other resources against damage from thousands of gallons of oil on the Deep Sea when it sank at its mooring May 13 after a fire.
The Deep Sea must still undergo inspections to determine whether it can float safely or must be placed on a barge for a tow to Seattle as early as tomorrow for dismantling.
A multi-agency unified command is coordinating the recovery effort. The command comprises the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Island County. Assisting in the response are the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Global Diving & Salvage Inc. (Global) and NRC-Environmental Services (NRC-ES). The county’s departments of Emergency Management and Public Works, and the Island County Sheriff’s Office, are providing local support to the response effort.
The unified command also receives assistance from the Washington departments of Health (WDOH) and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO).
The lift operation began Sunday morning, paused briefly so divers could remove several tons of silt from the deck, and resumed by late morning. By 1:30 p.m. the deck stood above the surface, and crews began to pump water out of the hold.
The Deep Sea rose slowly as the pumps emptied it. By late afternoon the vessel’s own buoyancy supported almost all of its weight. Crews continued to seek and repair any openings in the hull.
The operation to raise the vessel involved about 80 people, including crews on the water from Global Diving and NRC-ES, and those who supported the operation on shore from local, state and federal agencies.
In addition to crane barge crews, divers and environmental response contractors, the effort included five volunteer teams from Island County’s Washington State University Beach Watchers Program who assisted Coast Guard personnel.
Responders were prepared for a major release of oil because divers had been unable to determine whether two of the vessel’s six 5,500-gallon tanks contained fuel. In the first days after the sinking, divers and environmental cleanup crews hired by the Coast Guard removed more than 5,000 gallons of oil, mostly diesel fuel, from the vessel or surface waters above and around it.
The righting and lifting of the Deep Sea did dislodge smaller pockets of oil, which rose to the surface to form a light coating of oil on the water surface. Tidal currents pulled some sheen under and past 5,700 feet of floating oil-spill containment boom placed around the Deep Sea and vessels involved in the lifting. Light sheen reached shore in some places, but beach assessment teams found that this had evaporated, leaving no oil residue. A KCSO helicopter and crew helped environmental experts pinpoint patches of oil, and assess overall environmental conditions.
The response and preparations also included two NRC-ES oil-skimming vessels and two Ecology boats to aid environmental assessment.
The state Health Department closed all shellfish harvesting in Penn Cove on May 15. The closure will remain in effect until testing confirms shellfish from the area are safe to eat.
The Coast Guard has established a marine safety zone on waters within 200 yards of the Deep Sea. Vessels seeking to enter that zone must request permission from the Coast Guard’s Joint Harbor Operation Center at 206-217-6001 or from on-scene patrol craft on VHF radio channel 13.
Subsea World News Staff, June 05, 2012