Coal ship grounds on coral reef near Honolulu, damaging hull

A 734-foot bulk carrier ran aground on a Hawaiian reef, cracked its hull and caused unspecified damage to coral.

The Liberian-flagged Vogetrader was inbound Feb. 5 when it got stuck on the reef near Kalaeloa Barbers Point, off the island of Oahu. The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the cause of the grounding, which occurred near the entrance to Barbers Point Harbor.

Two escort tugs were alongside the bulk carrier when the accident happened, said Stefan Boldt, spokesman for Vogetrader owner H. Vogemann Shipping, of Hamburg, Germany. Boldt said there were no mechanical problems on the ship at the time.

Tugboats and pollution-response vessels assist the coal ship Vogetrader after the 734-foot vessel ran aground on its way into Hawaii’s Barbers Point Harbor. Although a fuel tank was breached, no oil escaped into the environment. (photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Soto)

A licensed pilot was aboard when Vogetrader grounded, said Capt. Steve Baker, president of the Hawaii Pilots Association. Baker confirmed that there were two escort tractor tugs present, in accordance with port requirements. The pilot was relieved and taken to Honolulu for drug and alcohol testing. The results were negative.

The German owner confirmed the damage to the ship’s hull.

“Coast Guard investigators discovered a crack at the bottom of the hull amidships where there is a double bottom fuel tank and reported water intrusion into the fuel tank,†H. Vogemann Shipping said in a press release. “There was no leaking of fuel, however, as seawater intrusion prevented oil from leaving the tank.â€

The ship grounded at 0725 near Buoy No. 2, which marks the entrance to the Barbers Point Harbor channel. The ship grounded in about 40 feet of water on the starboard bow, but remained in the channel. Vogetrader has a summer draft of about 44 feet.

The ship was inbound to Barbers Point Harbor from Gladstone, Australia, with a full load of coal.

“The grounding did not seriously disrupt maritime commerce,†Cmdr. Bob McFarland, the senior Coast Guard officer responsible for response support, said in a statement.

The company said that ballast was loaded on the port side in order to raise the starboard side enough to allow the vessel to be pulled free by tugs at about 1450 that day. Temporary repairs were made at anchorage, the statement said. The Coast Guard said there was no pollution or injuries associated with the accident.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources Division, is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the extent of environmental damage, said David Gulko, coral reef ecologist for the state agency.

Vogetrader grounded on the inbound side of Barbers Point Harbor channel. Gulko said that channel, which may have been dredged in the 1970s, rises sharply to a coral shelf on either side. All three agencies are working together on a plan for repair of the environmental damage.

In late March the 14th Coast Guard District was still investigating the cause of the grounding.

Boldt said he could not comment on the cause. The owner’s attorney, Nenad Krek of Carlsmith Ball LLP in Honolulu, also declined comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff