American Challenger Coalition – Update #4

April 14, 2021

Marine engineering contractors were dropped in by helicopter today to install an accelerometer onto American Challenger. The operation was part of a plan to determine safe access to the vessel so that pollution assessments can be completed. The accelerometer will monitor the stability of the vessel over time, providing data that will help determine the feasibility of getting onboard to examine four remaining petroleum tanks. 

The helicopter for today’s operations was provided by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department as part of a mutual aid agreement. 

The American Challenger remains grounded on a rocky shoreline in Marin County just north of Dillon Beach. Contractors from the engineering firm and also from a marine salvaging firm were hired last week by the Unified Command leading the response. To date, there have been no reports of oiled wildlife from the incident.

American Challenger Coalition – Update #3

April 9, 2021

A coalition of local, state and federal agencies continues to monitor the grounded American Challenger. The Unified Command has engaged Ballard Marine Construction, a marine salvage company, and Glosten Engineers, a Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering firm, to develop a plan to address safety concerns that have restricted access to the vessel. Once safety concerns have been addressed, the Unified Command intends to direct additional pollution assessments aboard the vessel.

Marin County Sheriff’s Office has issued a public advisory to refrain from approaching the vessel, as it is unstable and poses a serious safety threat.

To date there have been no reports of oiled wildlife from the incident.

The American Challenger, as seen from a drone flight on April 1. The vessel grounded on rocks in Marin County just north of Dillon Beach.

American Challenger Coalition – Update #2

April 2, 2021

A coalition of local, state and federal agencies continues to monitor the American Challenger, the 90-foot fishing vessel grounded on rocks north of Dillon Beach in Marin County.

Contractors specializing in marine engineering and safety are being hired to board the vessel to complete the pollution threat assessment. In the initial days of the response, crews led by state and federal agencies were able to access the ship and examine 13 of the 17 tanks on board. Operations to evaluate the remaining four tanks were called off due to safety concerns, as the vessel began to shift to an unsafe angle. Completion of the assessment will provide more information to determine the best way to remove fuel while protecting the health and safety of the public, responders, and the environment.

Marin County firefighters underwent refresher training on March 26, and are prepared to deploy oil spill containment resources promptly if the American Challenger or any other potential threat were to leak fuel that could impact sensitive habitat in Tomales Bay.

The American Challenger response is complex and involves multiple agencies with various authorities and jurisdictions. This coalition is committed to working together to find a safe, environmentally responsible solution, which will take time.

A CDFW drone captured this image of the American Challenger during an assessment on April 1, 2021.

American Challenger Coalition – Update #1

Marin County Fire crews deployed containment boom in Tomales Bay today as a readiness exercise led by the U.S. Coast Guard and CDFW-OSPR. Although no fuel sheen has been observed around the grounded fishing vessel, American Challenger, since March 10, the fire crews are now better prepared to use the equipment in the event of a potential discharge. Tomales Bay is just south of the vessel grounding site and home to sensitive habitat including oyster beds. Local oyster farmers were present for today’s exercise and consulted with agency staff.

The American Challenger coalition continues its work to secure funding to address the potential pollution threat from the 90-foot vessel. A plan is being developed to safely allow experts to board the vessel to further assess the remaining fuel tanks. To date, there have been no reports of oiled wildlife as result of the incident.

American Challenger Coalition – Initial Statement

A coalition of government agencies continues to explore options to secure funding to address the ongoing pollution threat from the American Challenger. The coalition has met several times over the past few days and discussions are ongoing.

The vessel remains grounded on a rocky shoreline near Dillon Beach in Marin County. Although sheening has not been observed around the vessel since March 10, it still poses a potential pollution threat to wildlife and sensitive habitat in the area. There have been no confirmed reports of oiled wildlife.

The coalition includes representatives from NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services.

Media inquiries can be directed to: Eric.Laughlin@Wildlife.ca.gov


American Challenger Response – Update #10

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. – The unified command overseeing the response to the American Challenger declared an end to emergency oil pollution response operations. Oversight for the next response phase will shift to a coalition of agencies including NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services that will focus on addressing the longer term pollution threat and additional environmental concerns from the American Challenger, as well as determining the ultimate fate of the vessel.

The initial emergency oil pollution response efforts are scheduled to conclude at the end of the week when all the boom has been removed from Tomales Bay. Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary will continue to monitor the coast for evidence of impacts from the grounding and oil spill with regular and enhanced Beach Watch surveys. The sanctuary will also continue to coordinate in other ways with agencies involved in this incident. 

There have been no confirmed reports of oiled wildlife. If oiled wildlife is seen, the public is asked not to approach and contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. 

Media inquiries can be directed to maryjane.schramm@noaa.gov or eric.laughlin@wildlife.ca.gov 

American Challenger Response – Update #9

MARIN COUNTY, Calif – The Unified Command has suspended their oil pollution assessment of the American Challenger to preserve the health and safety of responders.  A shift in the positioning of the vessel has created an unsafe work environment in its current state.  Based on the preliminary assessment conducted, oil pollution threat appears to be minimal at this time. 

The next step is to transition into long term monitoring and risk mitigation operations under an updated unified command structure, with a new lead federal agency that will be announced in the future. 

On Monday, March 8th, boom was put in place south of the vessel in Tomales Bay to protect sensitive sites in the event of an oil pollution spill. No sheen has been reported from aircraft and drone overflights around the ship since Wednesday.  

A net environmental benefit analysis was conducted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which indicated that the potential for damage to the sea floor due to long term deployment of boom outweighed the benefit of an extended preventative deployment based on the last conducted survey of the vessel.  Therefore, boom demobilization operations are scheduled to commence on Monday, March 15th.  

The unified command completed the following:   

  • Launched Coast Guard helicopter crews who conducted four overflights to assess signs of sheening from the American Challenger.  
  • Conducted five drone overflights to determine pollution impact.  
  • Contracted helicopter support to lower pollution assessment surveyors down to the vessel on multiple missions over the course of 2.5 days to assess fuel tanks aboard the American Challenger. Marin County Fire Department provided two water crafts as a safety platform during the vessel assessment.  
  • Conducted daily shoreline assessments from Doran Beach to Tomales Bay.  
  • Deployed preventative boom and applied absorbent pads to protect sensitive sites, including oyster beds, in Tomales Bay. 
  • Deployed 100 interagency and contractor personnel, the Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill, a Coast Guard boat crew, two Coast Guard helicopter crews, two local agency watercraft, five civilian work boats and three unmanned aerial assessment aircrafts. 
  • Coast Guard Sector San Francisco issued marine safety information broadcasts via marine-band radio to inform mariners of boom operations in Tomales Bay.  

All beaches remain open. Miller Boat Launch will remain open throughout the weekend but will be temporarily closed starting Monday, March 15th, to support boom removal operations. 

There have been no confirmed reports of oiled wildlife. If oiled wildlife is seen, the public is asked not to approach and contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. 

There are no impacts to commercial traffic or scheduled marine events at this time.  

Media inquiries can be directed to sectorsfpao@gmail.com 

American Challenger Response – Update #8

March 12, 2021

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. – The unified command continued their response Friday to the grounded vessel American Challenger

Coast Guard Pacific Strike Team members conducted a drone overflight to assess the American Challenger. There were no new reports of sheening. 

Environmental shoreline assessment teams continued to conduct surveys in the area with no reports of debris. 

There have been no confirmed reports of oiled wildlife. If oiled wildlife is seen, the public is asked not to approach and contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. 

The unified command is scheduled to host a virtual open house for the public Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87996831064, where staff will present information on the current status and future plans of the response.  

Additionally, the American Challenger Response public survey can be found at the following site where Marin County residents can share their concerns ahead of the open house. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AmericanChallengerResponsePublicSurvey 

Media inquiries can be directed to sectorsfpao@gmail.com 

Photos courtesy Lind Marine Inc.

American Challenger Response – Update #6

March 11, 2021

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. – The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Marin County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary continued to respond as a unified command Thursday, March 11, to the grounded 90-foot vessel American Challenger north of Dillon Beach.  

Marine survey operations remain suspended due to safety concerns regarding accessing the American Challenger. The Unified Command continues to monitor the situation. 

An environmental shoreline assessment team re-convened to conduct surveys in the area. Minor sheening was reported in the immediate vicinity of the vessel, but not in any other locations. 

Boom was deployed to protect sensitive habitats, including oyster beds in Tomales Bay, as a precautionary measure. Teams have been on site to monitor the boom and the Coast Guard is broadcasting a safety marine information bulletin to inform the public of booming operations in Tomales Bay.  

There have been reports of brown foam washing up along the beach, which have been assessed as normal biological material and not oil product.   

Coast Guard Sector San Francisco watchstanders were notified Friday of the American Challenger being towed southward by the Tug Hunter when the Tug Hunter lost propulsion due to a rope entangling the propeller. 

The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill crew arrived on scene but due to weather conditions, the proximity to shore and the unknown structural integrity of the unmanned vessel, the crew could not safely board the American Challenger to connect a tow line. At 1 a.m. the vessel grounded on a rocky shoreline near Dillon Beach.  

All beaches remain open. Miller Boat Launch is temporarily closed due to response operations, but will be open on Friday. 

There have been no confirmed reports of oiled wildlife. If oiled wildlife is seen, the public is asked not to approach and contact the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-823-6926. 

There are no impacts to commercial traffic or scheduled marine events at this time. 

The response is currently being funded by the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Federal assumption does not relieve the owner of their financial responsibilities and they may be liable for the cost of any response actions undertaken by the United States Government. 

Media inquiries can be directed to sectorsfpao@gmail.com 

A virtual open house for the public is scheduled for Saturday, March 13th, from 2:00pm – 4:00pm: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87996831064 

Below is the link to the American Challenger Response Public Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AmericanChallengerResponsePublicSurvey