Coast Guard, Unified Command, response crews complete grounded freighter removal from Mona Island, Puerto Rico

Southeastern Coast Guard NewsSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard, the Unified Command and response crews finalized the removal of the 202-foot grounded freighter Jireh from Mona Island, Puerto Rico Saturday.

The final cut-off-sections of the Jireh’s hull were lifted and transported by barge to the Port of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where all other sections of the freighter’s hull have been staged for further cutting and transfer to recycling companies.

“This complex and dangerous removal operation is now complete thanks to the close and persistent coordination between all responders from the Unified Command, participating agencies and on-scene response crews,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, Federal On-Scene coordinator for the response. “As a result, the threat to the pristine and fragile Mona Island nature reserve has been removed allowing Natural Resource Trustees to conduct final damage assessments and begin restoration.”

Cutting operations of the ship’s hull will continue in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico for approximately two weeks until all the steel has been transferred to recycling companies for final disposal. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers have conducted an assessment survey of the grounding area and continue working with local environmental agencies as the effort transitions from response to recovery.

More than 1,000 corals had been removed as a precautionary measure. NOAA divers, under the supervision of a NOAA authorized biologist, will return these transplanted corals, which are expected to have a high survival rate, to their original place on the reef if conditions allow.

Marine salvage contractors from Resolve Marine Group safely removed approximately 600 tons of the freighter’s hull. They also removed an estimated 20 tons of demolition debris from the ship’s interior that was transported to a landfill waste site in Ponce, Puerto Rico for final disposal. During the initial stages of the response, contractors removed more than 5,000 gallons of oil/water mix and 600 tons of oiled cargo from the grounded freighter.

“We are pleased with the work and coordination conducted by responders and the Unified Command in the removal of the freighter,” said Daniel J. Galán Kercado, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources secretary. “Now our experts will work with NOAA to monitor and restore the area and reestablish a balanced ecosystem.”

“Thanks to the work achieved by this group of experts, the vessel was safely removed from Mona Island without causing any significant impact to the area’s natural resources and the environment,” said Pedro J. Nieves Miranda, Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board chairman.

The Jireh ran aground on Mona Island June 21, 2012 with 84 passengers and crew.

A Unified Command made up of the Coast Guard, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board and other federal, state and local response personnel are working together to safely remove the freighter Jireh from Mona Island.

All operations involving the Jireh are funded through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Contributions to the OSLTF are made through a per barrel tax paid by oil companies as well as fines levied against companies who violate the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and other related laws.

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