Empress of the North Re-Floated

Monday, March 27, 2006
The Empress of the North was re-floated on Sunday. The vessel grounded Friday morning on the Columbia River, near Washougal, Wash. The vessel is currently underway to a dry-dock facility on Swan Island in Portland, Ore., in order to fully survey damage. Necessary repairs will be completed after a full damage assessment is done. A thorough inspection will be conducted by Coast Guard Sector Portland prior to the vessel's return to service. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and personnel from the salvage company will remain with the vessel to monitor its transit. A safety zone will remain in effect around the vessel during the transit. The removal of approximately 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel was completed late Saturday night. Remaining fuel onboard was transferred to port side tanks, away from the starboard side of the hull where the vessel was aground. The entire operation was overseen by a Unified Command comprised of Coast Guard Sector Portland, Washington Department of Ecology and American West Steamboat Co. There was no pollution discharge into the water. To be prepared for every scenario, including a pollution response, first responders and pollution response equipment was staged in Washougal. First responders included personnel from Coast Guard Sector Portland and Department of Ecology, and response equipment comprised of vessels and booming material. All passengers and most of the ship's crew were safely transferred off the vessel early Friday evening using the 230-foot passenger vessel Queen of the West and a barge. The Empress of the North left Astoria, Ore., March 19, for a seven-night Columbia River cruise. It was scheduled to return to Astoria Sunday. The Empress of the North is operated by American West Steamboat Co. All members of the Unified Command worked jointly and cooperatively to bring a safe resolution to this incident. The Unified Command was set up at Coast Guard Sector Portland. Sector Portland, located on Swan Island, is a multi missioned Coast Guard office which includes 240 active duty and reserve Coast Guard personnel. Mission capabilities include domestic and foreign vessel inspections, pollution response, marine investigations, waterways management, and commercial vessel law enforcement. The cause of the grounding is currently under investigation by Sector Portland.

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