USCG, Saipan, – The Unified Command (UC) was successful in coordinating the response to remove the 526 foot container ship PAUL RUSS from Micro Beach reef.
On the evening of September 10, 2014, members of the U.S. Navy Explosives Ordnance Division (USN EOD) departed Guam aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter WASHINGTON en route Saipan harbor to support the response.
The team’s early morning arrival on September 11th seas closer to Saipan. Once on-scene the USN EOD conducted surface swims to complete a safety assessment of the waters in the vicinity of the grounded vessel. The underwater assessment that would be conducted by diving would have to wait until the mid-afternoon’s low tide. The sub-surface dive allowed the team to get a closer look at the ordnance, which was found to be in various stages of decay.
The UC reviewed the priorities of ensuring the safety of personnel, protection of the environment, response execution, and recovery prior to making the final decision to attempt to remove the vessel from the reef. The decision was made to remove the ship during the next high tide, around 9:15 p.m., because of the risk posed to the environment and vessel if it was left in its current position during the increasing sea state. Seas were forecasted to pick up from a relatively calm 1 to 2 feet to 7 to 9 feet. The increased sea state caused the vessel to move and possibly shift to a position that could cause severe damage. The potential damage the vessel could sustain posed a greater risk to the environment and ship compared to that of the suspected ordnance.
The ordnance was found to be very detoriated and located in an underwater valley which would likely prevent direct contact with the vessel if it were to be pulled from the reef. Around 7 p.m., tugs were dispatched and personnel were returned to the vessel to prepare for the evolution. After two hours of execution, the PAUL RUSS was free and able to make it to the pier under its own power.
As of September 12th, PAUL RUSS will remain at the pier until it is inspected by the vessel’s Class Society and U.S. Coast Guard which will include an assessment of the hull. The enforcement of the 500 yard safety zone has been reduced to 250 yards in order for USN EOD and CNMI officials to make a determination on the final disposition the identified ordnance.
The vessel was recovered from the reef in time to not interrupt the regularly scheduled arrival of fuel which will take place today.