Response to Grounding of Clipper Lasco

Monday, September 18, 2006
The U. S. Coast Guard continues to coordinate the response to the grounding of the 645-ft. cargo ship Clipper Lasco just west of the designated anchorage area off Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fla. The vessel remains aground this evening as members of the unified command work to ensure that planned salvage operations do not cause further disruption to the ocean floor, are conducted as safely as possible, provide adequate resources for any contingencies that could arise and mitigate the risk of damaging the ship.

Divers from Resolve Marine Group, the salvor contracted by representatives for the Clipper Lasco, surveyed the ship's hull and the ocean bottom. The survey revealed that the vessel did impact the reef and some coral. The exact extent of the damage to coral will not be known until the vessel is refloated and a more comprehensive ocean-bottom survey is conducted.

A 500-yard safety zone is in effect around the Clipper Lasco in the interest of public safety. No vessel may enter the safety zone without prior approval by the U.S. Coast Guard. As a precaution, approximately 1,800 feet of 24-inch oil-containment boom have been deployed around the grounded vessel by SWS First Response, an oil spill response organization contracted by representatives of the Clipper Lasco. Additional spill response equipment, including more containment boom, vacuum trucks and skimmers, is being placed on standby or is being staged in key locations near environmentally sensitive areas identified in the Area Contingency Plan. The equipment is being staged as a precautionary measure to ensure a rapid response in the unlikely event of a fuel or oils spill from the vessel. SWS First Response also has two small boats on scene with three-person crews and another six people working on shore.

A marine inspector and pollution investigator, both from Coast Guard Sector Miami, remain aboard the grounded vessel to monitor conditions. Four members of the Coast Guard's Gulf Strike Team, headquartered in Mobile, Ala., arrived at the unified command this afternoon to assist in coordinating salvage operations. The Coast Guard Cutter Marlin is patrolling the area near the Clipper Lasco. The unified command, staffed by personnel from Coast Guard Sector Miami, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, American Bureau of Shipping classification society, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Dockendale Shipping Co. Ltd., London Offshore Consultants Inc., SWS First Response and Resolve Marine Group, is continuing to revise the salvage plan, which currently calls for the lightering of nearly 700 tons of cargo from the Clipper Lasco before attempting to re-float the vessel. The members of the unified command have determined that cargo lightering is the only method that will recover enough buoyancy to re-float the vessel. "The response to the grounding of the Clipper Lasco may not seem expedient, but we are following a deliberate planning process to ensure that all aspects of the salvage operation, including any contingencies, are adequately addressed and provide for the highest possible level of safety for response personnel, the environment and the vessel," said Capt. Karl Schultz, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami.

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