Hurricane Florence Pollution Task Force Issues Guidance for Removal of Sunken Vessels

united states coast guard

News Release  

Sept. 22, 2018
U.S. Coast Guard Hurricane Florence Response
Contact: Hurricane Response Media Operations Centers
Hampton Roads/Elizabeth City: (757) 295-8435
North Carolina: (252) 515-0895

South Carolina: (305) 318-1864

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Hurricane Florence Pollution Task Force Issues Guidance for Removal of Sunken Vessels

 GOLDSBORO, N.C. – The partner agencies of the Emergency Support Function #10 (ESF #10) have specific guidance for vessel owners who wish to remove their boats damaged by Hurricane Florence from local waterways.

 A sunken or displaced vessel is a hazard to the environment. The removal of these vessels can hasten the recovery and maintain the resilience of native marine plants and animals.

 The Coast Guard and other federal and state agencies have partnered under the authority of ESF #10 to assist the State of North Carolina in the assessment and removal of these vessels.

 Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel since it is the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment. If vessel owners choose to remove their own vessels, the ESF #10 task force encourages owners to follow these best practices for the safety of the environment:

  • Removal operations must take place during daylight hours.
  • Perform site visits and work from waterways, paved surfaces or existing roadways whenever possible to minimize impacts to sensitive habitats.
  • Select vehicles and equipment that are least likely to disturb soils and sediments and keep loading to a minimum to reduce ground pressure on unpaved surfaces.
  • At the conclusion of operations, remove all equipment and materials.
  • Do not block major egress points in channels, passes and bays during assessment and/or recovery operations.
  • Vessels should anchor in bare sand bottom areas during in-water response operations when possible.
  • When operating motor vessels over seagrass, coral and hard bottom areas, care should be taken to avoid propeller scarring or washing.
  • Use floating lines for anchoring and vessel removal operations to prevent line sweeping of coral, seagrass and seabeds.
  • If a vessel will be towed, the selected extraction path should ensure that no additional groundings or damage to sensitive habitats will take place as a result of the recovery.
  • Incidental dredging and/or filling associated with removal may require approval from North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and/or Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Marine debris removal activities should be conducted at sufficient tide and water depths to minimize any risk to sensitive habitats, including coral reefs and seagrasses.
  • Minimize ground-disturbing activities to as small an area as feasible to complete the task.
  • Watch for and avoid collisions with sea turtles, dolphins, sturgeon, whales or other animals. Immediately stop operating mechanical construction equipment, including vessels, if a protected or Endangered Species Act-listed species is observed within a 50-ft. radius of equipment, and resume after the species has departed the area of its own volition.

 The State of North Carolina and the Coast Guard assume no responsibility for the safety of the salvage operations. This responsibility rests solely with the vessel owners/operators.

 If a boat owner takes no action and the vessel remains a threat to the environment, any oil and hazardous substances will be removed from the vessel and then a determination will be made at that time as to proper mitigation. The determination will be based upon the vessel’s location and applicable state laws.

 The ESF #10 provides a coordinated Federal response to actual or potential oil and hazardous material releases. The ESF #10 for Hurricane Florence continues to assess and remove hazards in the wake of the storm.

 The Coast Guard and other federal and state partners are conducting assessments of damaged and sunken vessels in the areas most affected by Hurricane Florence. These assessments assist in providing an overarching image to the unified command of the effects of the storm, allowing for the effective placement of assets, expediting the response process.

Anyone witnessing an oil spill, chemical release or maritime security incident should call the National Response Center hotline at 1-800-424-8802. To report violations of wildlife law or wildlife injuries, call 1-800-622-7137.