American Challenger to be refloated and removed

David Briggs
The shipwreck of the American Challenger exposed a loophole when the owner couldn’t pay for the recovery and no public agency had a funding source set aside for such events. After four months, the federal government stepped up to remove the pollution threat and salvagers are crafting a plan to remove the vessel later this summer.   
07/07/2021

The shipwrecked fishing vessel that has sat on the rocks north of Dillon Beach since March 6 will be refloated and demolished later this summer, a coalition of agencies announced last week. The plan, which utilizes funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, consists of strategically filling interior spaces in the 90-foot American Challenger with expanding foam to create buoyancy, then pulling the vessel by tugboat. Crews have already patched the steel hull and installed cameras and accelerometers onboard. Global Diving and Salvage was hired for the removal, and Lind Marine will handle the disposal at its Vallejo facility, California Fish and Wildlife spokesman Eric Laughlin said; detailed technical plans and a date have not been set. The derelict boat was on its way from the Puget Sound to a salvage yard in Mexico when its towline broke. A Coast Guard cutter couldn’t save it from crashing into the shoreline, where it lodged among rocks and waves. Oil sheening was spotted in the vicinity, and containment boom was deployed in Tomales Bay. The boat had the capacity to hold as many as 29,000 gallons of petroleum, but the 17 tanks were mostly drained for the trip south. About 650 gallons of oil-water mix and seven cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated debris were recovered on board. Crews also removed a generator, hydraulic fluid, batteries, fire extinguishers and the tow line. The shipowner did not have the financial means or insurance to recover the boat, leaving it to sit for four months in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary while a coalition of agencies—the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, the Coast Guard, the E.P.A., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response—sought funding. The E.P.A. will cover salvage and disposal costs estimated at $1 million, and the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund will cover the expense of removal, which will be estimated after the operational plan is developed.