HONOLULU - The 145-foot motor vessel Casitas, which ran aground at Pearl and Hermes Atoll on July 2, has been successfully extracted from the reef and entombed northwest of the atoll in approximately 7,200 feet of water, the Unified Command announced.
“On behalf of all the parties involved, we are very pleased to see this operation safely completed,” said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Manson Brown, Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the Unified Command. “The Unified Command shared a common commitment to remove the potential pollutants and extract the vessel from the reef with no human injuries and as little damage to the environment as possible. Given the remote location and the significance of the reef ecosystem, it was a challenge – a challenge we can now say we met.”
The Casitas was pulled off the reef at 11:31 a.m. Thursday morning. The operation began early in the morning as ballast water was pumped from the Casitas to refloat the vessel. Additional holes in the hull were patched and pumps were kept operating to keep the Casitas afloat until it reached an approved disposal site at approximately 1:35 p.m.
Earlier, approximately 1,850 gallons of gasoline were transferred from the Casitas to the 240-foot barge serving as the operations base for the extraction. Equipment and personal gear were also removed from the Casitas. Because of safety concerns, about 15 tons of marine debris and other trash were left on the vessel but stowed in sealed, double-hulled holds. Entombment of this type is not unusual.
The successful entombment of the Casitas ends this phase of the operation. In the near future, a team of representatives from State of Hawaii, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and responsible party will gather at Pearl and Hermes Atoll to begin assessing injuries to the atoll’s natural resources.