The good news is that salvage crews have finally freed the wrecked longline vessel Pacific Paradise from a reef about 400 yards off Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, ending its 55-day stay there.
But the beat-down, 190-ton boat isn’t gone yet. After moving some 600 feet, it’s now stuck on the sandy bottom in a channel just past the reef.
Following days of work to patch most of the pukas that punctured its hull, the Paradise appears more buoyant. But it still slouches to starboard and that’s causing it to drag along the shallow sea floor in lower tides, Coast Guard officials said Wednesday morning while monitoring the latest salvage attempts.
Crews plan to resume towing the Paradise shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday when the high tide is expected to crest at 2.3 feet, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir. High tide on Wednesday afternoon is only expected to reach about 1 foot, Muir added.
The plan is for two tugboats to tow the Paradise 13 miles off shore to an Environmental Protection Agency-approved site, where it should sink to a depth of about 1,800 feet, away from human activity,” Muir said.
“It’ll probably crush in a bit at that point under the weight and pressure of that water,” she added Wednesday, watching as the salvage vessel JW Barnes nudged at the Paradise’s rusted and fire-blackened stern, delicately pushing the boat from behind.
Once it’s gone, state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials will assess the damage to the reef, Muir said.
A fire that broke out aboard the boat on Oct. 14 hampered the salvage effort. The water used to extinguish the blaze weighed the vessel down more and crews had to wait about three days for it to smolder and the heat to dissipate, Muir said.
Authorities are still investigating the cause, but Muir noted Wednesday that crews were working with a gas-powered de-watering pump when the fire occurred.
“They had some issues with it,” she said. “Exactly what happened, I’m not sure. We are under the impression it was accidental.”
Subsequently, salvage crews used diesel pumps instead because they don’t have the same issues with heat and gas fumes, Muir said.
Costs for the salvage operation have already exceeded $1 million but there’s no final tally yet, Muir said. The boat’s owner, Honolulu-based TWOL LLC, is responsible to cover those costs.
Any costs that the owner can’t pay would likely be covered by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, according to Muir. Congress authorized that fund after the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
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