Recent storms have severely degraded the integrity of the vessel, damaging safety equipment recently installed in preparation for the vessel salvage operations. A unrecoverable sheen approximately 75-feet long was observed near the vessel this week during an overflight, but no impacted wildlife observed by wildlife observers on-site. With continued changes to the vessel’s position and integrity, new plans are being developed for the destruction and removal. Before approving any plan, the Unified Command will evaluate the ability to continue safe operations and potential environmental impacts. Wildlife observers will remain on-site during operations.
A helicopter lifted out large bags of debris collected near the American Challenger this past week, as operational planning to remove the grounded 90-foot vessel continues. The debris removal project was funded by the U.S. EPA and CDFW-OSPR and items collected along the shoreline included a compressed gas cylinder.
The multi-agency Unified Command leading response efforts plans to execute the destruction plan in several phases, all pending environmental review. Work to prepare the vessel for safe boarding operations could begin as early as next week, depending on weather and ocean conditions.
The Unified Command overseeing response efforts to the American Challenger coordinated a safe boarding operation this week to assess the vessel’s current condition as part of a working plan for its removal and destruction. The joint agency command that includes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Marin County, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary continues to respond to the 90-foot vessel that has been grounded within the rocky shoreline north of Dillon Beach in Marin County since March 5, 2021.
This week’s on-water assessment was made possible by weak tides and weather conditions. A shoreline cleanup operation is set for next week, as the U.S. EPA has secured funding to pick up hazardous materials and other debris identified on the shoreline near the vessel.
The Unified Command overseeing response efforts for American Challenger, the 90-foot vessel that grounded on rocks north of Dillon Beach on March 6, 2021, has learned that removal/destruction plans have been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant.
The joint-agency command continues to assess the vessel, along with weather and sea conditions, to determine when operations can safely commence.
The Unified Command includes representatives from Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Marin County, and the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, where the vessel grounded.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.