Unified Command Press Release – Update #10

July 1, 2021

Unified Command officials from the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) announced the American Challenger, a 90-foot vessel which grounded March 6 near Bodega Bay in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, will be removed. The Unified Command is committed to successfully removing the threat of pollution by safely and effectively refloating and relocating the vessel to Lind Marine in Vallejo, Calif., where it can be disposed of properly.

Planning work is slated to begin next week with vessel removal operations later this summer. Funding for the removal and disposal comes from the federal government’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and EPA Region 9.

The vessel ran aground on rocks north of Dillon Beach when it broke loose from a towing apparatus while en route to Mexico from Puget Sound, Wash. While the vessel’s steel hull is mostly intact, petroleum products and waste onboard pose a threat to the environment.

No oiled wildlife has been observed to date.

American Challenger Coalition – Update #9

June 26, 2021

The Unified Command and contracting partners have been assessing American Challenger to determine its stability for removal. The decision was made to remove the vessel from its current location.
The response has recently accepted a proposal from a contractor for the removal and has also contracted for the wreck’s demolition and disposal shoreside.
Although no dates have been set, updates will be posted here.
(CDFW photo from June 4)

American Challenger Coalition – Update #8

May 21, 2021

Operations continued this week to assess and remove pollutants from the American Challenger, which grounded on the rocks north of Dillon Beach on March 5.
Crews successfully patched three holes in the vessel’s interior hull and completed an exterior sonar scan. The crews also removed a generator and hydraulic oil aboard, in addition to changing out absorbent materials within the vessel. OSPR prevention specialists are currently working to quantify product and other pollutants removed.
The response has begun to transition from a pollution assessment phase to a removal assessment phase. Over the coming weeks OSPR scientists will evaluate potential environmental risks from removal and marine engineers will continue evaluating best methods to dispose of the 90-foot vessel.

American Challenger Coalition – Update #7

May 14, 2021

Contractors continued operations to assess and remove pollutants from American Challenger, the 90-foot vessel that grounded on rocks in Marin County on March 5.

This week, divers evaluated application of external temporary patches. They are also using a sonar scanner to help evaluate the condition of the steel hull.

Additional pollutants and hazardous materials such as batteries, fire extinguishers, and hydraulic fluid continued to be collected from the vessel.

To assist with monitoring efforts, crews have installed a new camera system on the inside of the vessel.

Heavy coastal fog continued to create operational delays throughout the week. Weather permitting, crews plan to continue assessment efforts. A helicopter continues to be utilized for assessment and surveying operations.

(Photos courtesy Ballard Marine Inc.)

American Challenger Coalition – Update #6

Crews have completed assessment efforts for the four remaining petroleum tanks aboard American Challenger.

Approximately 650 gallons of oil/water mix was recovered from one of the tanks, along with approximately 7 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated debris and other miscellaneous hazardous materials. The vessel’s tow line was also removed from the water.

Access to pollutants in the engine room remain a challenge, based on the vessel’s disposition and variable weather and tides. Crews deployed absorbent pads within, but accessible oil and hazardous materials will continue to be addressed as operations progress.

Periodic oil sheens have been observed in the immediate vicinity of the vessel. Deployment of boom or other preventive measures were determined not to be effective due to the low quantity of product and challenging sea conditions. Efforts are underway to contain the petroleum and determine its source location and develop a long-term mitigation plan.

Additional environmental support has been integrated into the response to monitor potential impacts to wildlife, although there have been no reports of oiled wildlife since the incident took place on March 5. 

American Challenger Coalition – Update #5

April 23, 2021

The Unified Command has approved a plan to continue pollution assessments of American Challenger, based on preliminary findings from an accelerometer installed on the vessel April 14.  The device has provided data that has led marine engineers and the Unified Command to conclude that the vessel is stable enough to be boarded via helicopter drop-in to survey the 4 remaining petroleum tanks. The boarding operation is tentatively scheduled for April 26, and will proceed if additional safety analysis supports the plan. Operations will also be dependent on weather and tides, and once initiated will likely last 3 to 4 days.

Marin County emergency crews will be on standby and oil spill response equipment has been pre-staged to respond to any unexpected releases.

To date, there have been no reports of oiled or injured wildlife due to this incident.

This photo from April 14 shows Sonoma County Sheriff’s Henry 1 helicopter being used to lower marine salvage contractors onto the vessel to install the accelerometer. A helicopter will also be used for next week’s planned operations, as it’s the only safe way for crews to access American Challenger.

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.