The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The Unified Command and Resolve Marine Group, Inc. response contractors continue cargo removal staging preparations Monday as heavy sea states are temporarily delaying cargo offload operations aboard the grounded 202-foot freighter Jireh on the southern coast of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
“The Unified Command has put forth a request to remove the Jireh from Mona Island, as we evaluate all available options to determine the best course of action to mitigate and protect the environment from any existing or potential pollution threat as a result of the grounding,” said Cmdr. David Berliner, Coast Guard Incident Commander for the response.
The RMG 400 crane barge, outfitted with a 400-ton fixed crane and 175-ton fully revolving crane, arrived to Mona Island Saturday to conduct cargo removal operations after completing the eight-day transit from Mobile Ala. with the assistance of a tug boat.
“We need for the sea state to settle down before we can bring the crane barge alongside the Jireh to complete the removal of any remaining oiled cargo and miscellaneous hazardous materials onboard,” said Chief Warrant Officer David Studer, Coast Guard Operations Section Chief for the response. “This is a complex operation that will take some time to complete and we need to ensure that it is done safely, that the oiled cargo is disposed of properly and the environment is protected.”
Since response operations began June 21, approximately 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil water mixture have been removed from the grounded freighter.
Dive operations around the Jireh were conducted during the weekend to ensure the anchoring system for the RMG 400 was properly installed without impacting the environment or surrounding coral colonies and to assess any further damage to the freighter’s hull.
Divers identified previously a now 14-foot hole/crack on the side of the Jireh’s hull ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. There are no signs of oil having been released into the water and the vessel continues to be surrounded by approximately 1,300-feet of containment boom to protect the environment and contain any possible fuel that may be released into the water during ongoing fuel and cargo removal operations.
The cargo aboard the Jireh consists of mangoes, water bottles, grain bags of animal feed, cinder blocks, carbonated drinks and miscellaneous hazardous materials.
Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources marine units continue enforcing a 500-yard safety zone around the vessel and DRNA park rangers are providing shore side security to the response.
The Unified Command continues to monitor response operations, while the Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the grounding.
The Unified Command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, and various other federal, state and local agencies.