Helicopter used to help defuel grounded yacht on Maui, Hawaii

Salvors have successfully removed the fuel from luxury yacht Nakoa, which ran aground in Maui’s Honolua Bay on February 20th. Salvage operations were continuing.

The 94-footer grounded on the north side of Maui’s Honolua Bay, which is a state-protected marine sanctuary. The owner told local media that the yacht’s mooring line parted early Monday morning in a “freak accident,” and that this resulted in the boat drifting ashore.

The yacht released diesel into the water on the Tuesday when the bilge pumps activated, the owner said. An initial attempt to refloat it was unsuccessful. The owner notified state and federal authorities that he was unable to pay for defueling, officials told local media.

The US Coast Guard then federalized the pollution response effort and used the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to bring in locally based remediation contractor Sea Engineering. Over the course of the week the Sea Engineering pollution-response team removed nearly 500 gallons of petroleum and 14 marine batteries from the vessel, without further incident.

Sea Engineering pumped the yacht’s fuel into 55-gallon drums on the stern. A helicopter operator then flew the drums off the yacht using a line, landing them in an open area nearby for retrieval and removal by truck. The USCG said that this operation took three days because the boat was listing and the fuel pooled up in each segment of the tank baffles.

Now that the defueling has been completed, the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund has no further liability and the federal responsibility for pollution-abatement has ended. Responsibility for wreck removal will rest with the Hawaii State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. The department has hired a second contractor, Visionary Marine, to remove the vessel, an operation that was scheduled to begin on February 26th.

Total salvage cost is expected to exceed $450,000, and the state plans to bill the owner for the expense. The owner also could face additional fines in connection with the grounding.

Honolua Bay is part of a state-administered marine life conservation district, where fishing and removal of marine life are prohibited. It is home to large coral outcroppings, and it is a popular diving destination.