The Coast Guard, in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy
's Supervisor of Salvage, is reviewing a plan submitted by the owners and contracted salvors of a sunken tug and a barge impeding vessel traffic in the Elk River
in the Upper Chesapeake Bay
. The tug and barge, which sank in the shipping channel following a collision with a freighter, have caused the adjacent C&D Canal to remain closed to all vessel traffic pending their safe removal. Four men remain missing following the incident.
The salvage plan, submitted by Norfolk Dredging Marine, the sunken tug Swift's owners, and Ellsworth Salvage, the contractor, must adequately address a number of safety, environmental, and navigational considerations in order to receive the agencies' authorization to begin operations.
"We are eager to begin the raising of the sunken tug and barge as quickly as possible for a number of reasons: to aid the Coast Guard's investigation into the cause of the accident, to bring a measure of closure to the victims' families and to reopen the canal to shipping traffic. However, this is a difficult and dangerous operation that could easily be complicated or postponed by weather and other factors ," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Hammond, a spokesperson for Coast Guard Activities Baltimore.
The tug's owners continue to move barges and other salvage equipment to the scene and to conduct preparatory dive operations which include laying cable, plugging the tug's fuel vents and picking up debris from the river floor.
The Army Corps of Engineers continued its own underwater survey today for debris in the channel.
Salvage operations will be centered around "slack tide," which occurs twice daily, in order to perform the most difficult work when the river's typically strong current is at a standstill
The Coast Guard Cutter Cleat continues to enforce a safety zone in the location of the sunken tug. The Maryland Department of Environment and the Atlantic Environmental Group, a contractor, remain on stand-by with pollution containment equipment in the event of a release of diesel fuel or other pollution from the tug. Members of the Coast Guard's Atlantic Strike Team, specially trained in pollution and hazardous chemical spill response, are also on hand for environmental response oversight.