Passenger Ferry Dismantled, Removed From Triangle Reef

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Passenger Ferry American Pride is being transported today to the British Virgin Islands after being successfully removed by salvagers yesterday from Triangle Reef, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

This was the third attempt to recover the American Pride from the reef since the vessel ran hard aground March 17, just off the Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas Harbor. Recovery operations to remove the vessel from the reef were reinitiated yesterday after operations had been suspended since March 28, due to rough seas.

Sea Tow Saint Thomas salvagers and Commercial Dive Services from Tortola, British Virgin Islands, used air and hydraulic tools to cut the 96-foot American Pride into two pieces. A crane was then used to lift the stern and bow sections of the vessel off the reef and onto a barge. The American Pride was then transported to Crown Bay, Saint Thomas, where it was transferred to a second deck barge for transport to the British Virgin Islands.

Salvagers placed 400 feet of containment boom between the vessel and the shoreline to deal with and mitigate any possible fuel spill during the removal of the American Pride. A light unrecoverable fuel sheen was observed around the vessel during the recovery operation. The sheen was deemed to cause minimal environmental impact to the reef and the environment.

Sea Tow Saint Thomas and Commercial Dive Services are diving at Triangle Reef today removing all possible sub-surface debris, they also removed all floating debris from the grounding site yesterday.

The Coast Guard was first notified about the grounding by a 911 operator. The vessel had just departed the Saint Thomas Harbor and was headed to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, when it ran aground. Eighteen passengers and three crewmembers aboard the American Pride were rescued from the vessel March 17 by Sea Tow Saint Thomas and Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Saint Thomas. No injuries were reported in connection with the grounding.

On March 17 the Coast Guard was told the port-side fuel tank of the American Pride had ruptured and approximately 350 gallons of diesel fuel were released into the water. The starboard tank of the vessel was also holding approximately 350 gallons of diesel fuel, and the vessel was estimated to be carrying 55 to 65 gallons of oil from the engines and generators, two five-gallon drums of lube oil and eight to 10 gallons of hydraulic fluid.

The exact extent of the damage caused to the coral reef will not be known until a more comprehensive ocean-bottom survey is conducted. Saint Thomas Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Environmental and Fish and Wildlife Divisions, will assess the damages sustained by the reef.

A Unified Command consisting of the Coast Guard, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Environmental and Fish and Wildlife Divisions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the owner of the vessel and Sea Tow Saint Thomas coordinated and developed an Incident Action Plan to ensure planned salvage operations did not cause further disruption to the reef and were conducted as safely as possible.

The cause of the grounding remains under investigation by Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment personnel in Saint Thomas.

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