U.S. EPA Assesses Sunken, Leaking Marine Vessels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) continues its response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma in close coordination with federal, commonwealth, territory, and local partners. EPA remains focused on environmental impacts and potential threats to human health as well as the safety of those in the affected areas.

“Our role is to assist both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to minimize environmental damage from boats leaking gasoline, fuel or other contaminants,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “We are doing this in a way that respects the vessel owner’s rights while still protecting people from spills and hazardous substances that might be onboard the vessels.”

Marine Vessels Recovery Operations

EPA is supporting Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Coast Guard in marine vessel recovery work. Teams continue to locate, assess and retrieve sunken, damaged and derelict vessels around Puerto Rico and the USVI.  We are also assisting with the recycling and disposal of recovered oil and hazardous materials from the vessels.

The U.S. EPA’s support role includes recording the vessel’s location and collecting information such as the name of the vessel and identification number, condition, impact to surrounding areas and/or sensitive/protected habitats (e.g. mangroves, coral reefs) for future recovery missions and owner notifications.  A higher priority is placed on vessels found to be actively leaking fuel or hazardous materials, where containment and absorbent booms are placed to decrease contamination.

Once the damaged vessels are brought to shore, or are processed on a staging barge, EPA will be handling various hazardous materials for recycling and disposal, including petroleum products (oil, gas or diesel fuel), batteries, and e-waste, which can harm the environment if they’re not removed from the waters. EPA will also recycle or dispose of any “household hazardous wastes”, such as cleaners, paints or solvents and appliances from the vessels. It is important to properly dispose of these items to prevent contamination to the aquatic ecosystem.

Vessels are being tagged by assessment teams with a sticker requesting that owners contact the U.S. Coast Guard to either report their vessel’s removal, or to request U.S. Coast Guard assistance in its removal. There is no cost, penalty or fine associated with the removal of the vessels.

As of November 16, 2017,

  • 340 vessels were identified as being impacted in Puerto Rico
  • 589 vessels were identified as being impacted in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The effects of an spills from marine vessels will depend on a variety of factors including, the quantity and type of liquid (i.e., fuel, oil) spilled, and how it interacts with the marine environment. Prevailing weather conditions will also influence the liquid’s physical characteristics and its behaviour. Other key factors include the biological and ecological attributes of the area; the ecological significance of key species and their sensitivity to pollution as well as the time of year. It is important to remember that the clean-up techniques selected will also have a bearing on the environmental effects of a spill.

ASL wins pollution response vessel orders

ASL Shipyards in Singapore has won a contract to build three pollution response vessels, whose design leans heavily on escort tug architecture. Western Canada Marine Response Corp ordered the three response vessels to protect Canada’s west coast.

ASL Spill Response Vessel

The vessels will increase offshore spill response capabilities for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. ASL will build these vessels to Robert Allan’s BRAvo 2500 design, which uses elements of the naval architect’s experience in designing escort tugs.

These 25 m vessels will be pollution response platforms custom-designed to meet the formidable environmental conditions and demanding requirements of Canada’s west coast.

They will act as a mothership to other smaller vessels during the response to spills, and be capable of deploying containment equipment, transferring components between vessels, and will store oil in internal tanks or offload oil into barges.

These vessels will have Caterpillar C9.3 main engines and two Caterpillar C4.4 service generator sets. They will be classed by Lloyd’s Register and built to meet Transport Canada requirements.

Robert Allan worked on the design of these vessels, including the use of computational fluid dynamics, since the start of this year. It used its designs for the RAstar series of offshore escort tugs for the hull form and hull sponsons. The vessels will have large bilge keels, twin skegs and a bulbous bow.

For oil containment, they will have Kepner self-inflating offshore booms stored on a large powered reel and a Current Buster 4 sweep system. BRAvo 2500 vessels will have an aft swim platform that allows easy access to the water surface for recovering and deploying equipment with the vessel’s crane.