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Sunken crab boat could be raised Sunday

Contractors now estimate that it be will at least Sunday before they can begin raising a 128-foot crab boat that sank in Penn Cove more than two weeks ago, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Agency officials had been optimistic that the operation could begin today. However, a news release distributed Tuesday evening announced that more work will have to be done before the vessel will be ready for lifting.

Divers have been preparing the Deep Sea since Friday and will continue to do so through this week.

A multi-agency unified command is coordinating the recovery effort. The command comprises the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington departments of Ecology (Ecology) and Natural Resources (DNR), Island County Department of Emergency Management, Global Diving & Salvage Inc. (Global) and NRC-Environmental Services (NRC-ES).

Divers for Global, working under a contract with Ecology, have cleared a path under the Deep Sea's stern through which to pull a heavy lifting chain. The vessel rests on its left side, partially sunken in silt. Divers must dig a deeper hole for a second lifting chain under the vessel's center. That second excavation involves moving the equivalent of three dump truck loads of material.

The dive team has encountered machinery, hatch covers and other material that fell off the Deep Sea. Divers had to remove some of these objects, which had settled deeply into the muddy bottom, to allow digging of lifting chain passages.

Planners expect the 300-foot crane barge, D.B. General, to depart Seattle for Penn Cove late Saturday. It will right the vessel and then provide the bulk of the lifting power in tandem with a 140-foot crane barge, the D. B. Oakland, which arrived late Monday afternoon. The Oakland is helping to put lifting chains under the Deep Sea's hull. The two cranes belong to General Construction Co.

Environmental teams surveyed the cove by boat and helicopter Tuesday. They observed small patches of oil sheen, a thin coating on the water's surface, in the area around the site of the sunken vessel. The sheen is too thin to recover, and is dissipating by evaporation and wave action.

Earlier underwater operations - soon after the Deep Sea sank May 13 after a fire – have removed approximately 3,100 gallons of diesel oil from the vessel. Crews working on the surface have recovered about 1,400 gallons more. Small amounts of oil continue to leak from the Deep Sea. Responders are preparing to contain or recover oil that remains on board – in unknown quantities and locations – that could escape during the righting and lifting.

The Coast Guard has established a marine safety zone on waters within 200 yards of the Deep Sea. Vessels seeking to enter that zone must request permission from the Coast Guard's Joint Harbor Operation Center at 206-217-6001 or from on-scene patrol craft on VHF radio channel 13.

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