The grounded fishing vessel Pacific Paradise was finally removed from the reef off Kaimana Beach near Honolulu’s famous Waikiki on Thursday.
Response crews refloated the 79-foot Pacific Paradise Wednesday and moved the vessel about 600 feet into the sandy channel before losing the tide. Crews conducted additional work to prepare for the refloat and tow the vessel Thursday. That effort was ultimately successful in fully removing the Pacific Paradise at 7:15 a.m. on the high tide using the tug Pi’ilani, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed.
Just over a mile offshore, the tow was switched over to the tug American Contender for the transit out to the EPA-approved disposal site 13 miles south of Oahu in federal waters. The responders are now in the process of scuttling the Pacific Paradise in nearly 1,800 feet of water.
The Coast Guard reported that minimal pollution entered the water during the operation to refloat and remove the grounded vessel.
The vessel originally grounded just before midnight on October 10. In the time since, local and mainland experts have worked to remove the vessel as quickly and safely as possible with the least amount of impact to the marine environment.
A November 29 update from the Coast Guard estimated that 1,500 gallons of fuel could still be on the vessel, despite efforts to remove as much as possible. In the initial days of the response, about two-thirds of the estimated 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard the vessel was removed.
After a number of failed attempts to refloat the vessel, experts with Resolve Marine assumed the lead in the operation that led to this week’s succesful refloating operations.
Crews spent the past weeks preparing and patching the hull, removing excess weight by pumping water and removing heavy spare parts including sheet metal and the rudder and adding additional buoyancy.
The initial cause of the grounding is still under investigation.
The State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources will now assume the lead as the coordinating agency to work with the owner of the Pacific Paradise to conduct clean-up of the wreck site as the pollution threat has been removed. The state will also assess any damage done to the reef and facilitate the next step in mitigating the impacts and rehabilitating the reef.
“This response has been long and challenging, but the professionalism and expertise of the crews that came together was nothing short of impressive”, said Capt. Michael Long, captain of the port and commander U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. We appreciate the patience and support of the public, the diligence and persistence of our partners and are grateful the Pacific Paradise was safely removed.”
Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, expressed her sincere appreciation to everyone involved.
“These efforts are complex, and with the addition of unpredictable ocean conditions, the position, size and weight of the ship on the reef, and its proximity to one of Hawaii’s most populated beach areas, it was important that we all worked together to remove the ship while minimizing risk to people and to the environment,” said Case. “DLNR is conducting a full assessment of the reef and any associated natural resource damage that occurred during the event.”
The Coast Guard is continuing the investigation into the cause of the grounding, a process that will likely take several months. Once complete those findings will be released to the public and action will be taken to levee any fines or punitive actions that may be deemed appropriate.
The Pacific Paradise is a U.S.-flagged vessel and part of the Hawaii longline fleet homeported in Honolulu. Following the grounding, the Captain and 19 fishermen were rescued from the vessel. The fishermen were released to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.