U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan and Resident Inspection Office St. Croix crews are assessing the condition of the 221-foot cargo ship MV Commander, after it successfully refloated Saturday afternoon from Round Reef, where it grounded Friday night just outside Christiansted Harbor in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Commander is safely anchored in the vicinity of Protestant Cay in Christiansted. Initial underwater assessments have identified that the Commander’s two rudders are missing. Besides minor scratches there appears to be no major damage to the vessels’ hull.
No sign of oil pollution leaking from the vessel or in the surrounding area has been identified and the vessel does not present a threat to the environment at this time.
Coast Guard marine casualty investigators are investigating the cause of the grounding and future actions for the MV Commander are currently being evaluated.
"It is extremely fortunate that this vessel was promptly refloated after having grounded on Round Reef,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “The aggressive response and close coordination between all agencies in the U.S. Virgin Island ensured safety of the public while averting an environmental tragedy in Christiansted Harbor.”
Coast Guard Sector San Juan received initial notification of the incident Friday night from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources (DPNR), Division of Environmental Enforcement, who along with the Virgin Islands Police Department’s marine unit were the first responding agencies on scene.
Coast Guard Resident Inspection Office and Boat Forces St. Croix personnel immediately responded to the scene and worked with the master and owner of the MV Commander for them to provide a vessel salvage plan that would minimize the environmental impact during the refloating and removal of the cargo ship. Following high tide and favorable weather conditions Saturday afternoon the vessel was able to refloat, free itself from the reef and safely anchor in the vicinity of Protestant Cay.
DPNRs’ Division of Fish and Wildlife will assess any damage to corals and fisheries habitats, while DPNR’s Divisions of Coastal Zone Management and Fish and Wildlife will assess fines or penalties for any damages done to the reef due to this incident.