Cargo vessel refloated after grounding off St. Thomas

(CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas) — Salvors successfully refloated the cargo vessel Bonnie G on Monday and towed it to its current mooring location at the Crown Bay Sandfill dock in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The 195-foot, Vanuatu-flagged roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) vessel took on water in the engine room and ran aground Oct. 4 just south of the airport in St. Thomas. All 12 people aboard abandoned the vessel onto two life rafts and a lifeboat. No injuries were reported to the Coast Guard.

To protect the environment, Coast Guard and Virgin Islands responders worked with Playland Marine pollution removal crews to remove the diesel fuel and lube oil from Bonnie G as well as batteries and other hazardous materials prior to the vessel being refloated. Bonnie G was reported to have over 13,000 gallons of diesel and 700 gallons of lube oil on board.

Waves crash over the 195-foot Bonnie G after it ran aground Oct. 4 off St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. Coast Guard photo

“We commend all of the Coast Guard, federal and local response agency crews as well as the National Response Corp., Playland Marine LLC and DonJon-SMIT Inc. for their efforts in achieving a successful response,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Flowers, Coast Guard Bonnie G response incident commander for the refloating operation. “This was a very complex incident, as the Bonnie G response endured 26 days with the vessel aground and two passing storms in the peak of hurricane season. We are appreciative of the cooperative efforts to protect the pristine waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands by safely removing this pollution threat and preventing major environmental impacts.”

Vessel owners and salvors will now coordinate further operations to remove the damaged cargo, remaining oil and conduct further salvage or repair operations for Bonnie G.

To refloat the vessel, DonJon-SMIT presented the Coast Guard with a detailed plan to ensure the refloating operation was done safely and to prevent any further damage to the vessel while protecting the responders, the public and the environment.

During refloating operations, salvors used two tugboats: Sentry, which served as the lead tugboat, and Limetree Bay, which served as the assist vessel. Once the tugboats were on site, the towing lines were connected to the bow and stern of Bonnie G.

Meanwhile, salvors conducted simultaneous air pressurization of five vessel compartments and pumped empty the engine room and steering gear compartments to keep any possible oils contained within the vessel. All other deballasting operations to empty water ballast tanks for vessel refloating were conducted as indicated by the naval architect.

Once all ballasting and air pressurization was completed, the tugboats pulled the vessel until it was free from grounding before towing it to safe harbor. To facilitate safety and security during this movement, the Coast Guard implemented a moving safety zone around the vessel to ensure the safety of responders and Bonnie G.

During this case the Coast Guard coordinated with local government partners, including the Department of Planning & Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts, as well as the responsible party, to create a pollution mitigation and removal plan for the grounded vessel. The National Response Corp. served as the oil spill removal organization for the case, who in turn contracted Playland Marine to assist with oil and pollution removal. DonJon-SMIT served as the salvaging company.

– U.S. Coast Guard


By Professional Mariner Staff