The SEACOR Power lift boat will not be able to raised in one piece as the structural integrity of the vessel has been compromised and is showing signs of breaking up, an update from the unified command said on Wednesday.
The unified command, consisting of the Coast Guard and SEACOR, made the announcement during a meeting today in Houma, Louisiana to update family members of the crew on the status of salvage operations.
Throughout the last week, salvage crews from Donjon-SMIT have been removing obstructions from the seafloor around the partially sunken lift boat in preparations to raise the partially sunken lift boat and make room for equipment.
The SEACOR Power remains in the same location where it sank, however the unified command now reports that the vessel has rotated and salvors have identified cracking and separation of the hull from the superstructure, compromising the integrity of the wreck. As a result, the SEACOR Power will have to be raised to the surface and brought to shore in separate sections.
According to the unified command’s plan, a Donjon-SMIT salvage team will outfit a barge with a pump system that allows it to be submerged and maneuvered under the larger sections of the vessel. Once in place, water will be pumped out of the barge, refloating it to the surface with the larger sections already on board. The raising will be done in conjunction with assistance from a crane barge on the surface.
The unified command says this method should preserve the structural integrity of the recovered section.
Safety netting will be placed around the openings of each section as it is raised and transported.
As far as timeline, the unified command estimates the removal of the largest sections to be complete by the end of June, but the timeline depends on many factors including the safety of salvage crews, weather, and any new structural changes that may occur. SEACOR assets will remain in the area until the end of July to recover any remaining debris from the sea floor.
The SEACOR Power capsized during a severe squall shortly after departing Port Fourchon, Louisiana on April 13 with 19 people on board. Six crew members were recovered safely following the accident. Six were recovered dead and seven people remain missing.
The accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Coast Guard.
Crews last month completed the removal of approximately 20,363 gallons of diesel fuel from the vessel, but approximately 4,500 gallons of hydraulic fluid remains on board in tanks that are reportedly inaccessible but not comprised.
The Coast Guard continues to monitor for any oil discharges, and SEACOR Marine has an Oil Spill Response Organization standing by to respond to any situation in which there is recoverable oil.
A Coast Guard safety zone extending 1 nautical mile around the site and the Federal Aviation Administration temporary flight restrictions will remain in place until salvage operations are complete, ensuring the safety of divers and salvage crews.
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