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News | April 14, 2017

The Navy on Guam Partners with Local, Federal Agencies to Remove Abandoned Boat from Guam Reef

By Frank Whitman Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas

A team of Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas environmental specialists and Navy salvage divers safely floated a 26-foot abandoned fiberglass boat on April 5, a result of a One Guam cooperative effort between government of Guam, federal agencies and the Navy.

The derelict vessel had been grounded on the reef in Pago Bay, Guam for several months. Its removal is part of an effort to clear unwanted items from nearshore waters of Guam.

It was due in part to a seven-member team from Mobile Salvage Diving Unit (MSDU) 1 attached to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 based in Singapore here to conduct salvage surveys of locations proposed for assessment and possible salvage during DIVEX17 - a multi-national military dive exercise scheduled for June on Guam.

While the dive team is on Guam conducting salvage surveys, the One Guam team reached consensus on the immediate removal of the abandoned boat.

"The government of Guam, the federal government and the Navy are coming together to protect human health and the environment by identifying and safely removing abandoned vessels in Guam's waters," said Glenn San Nicolas, environmental health specialist with the Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA) Solid Waste Management Program. "It's a win-win for everybody." 

The removal of the boat took place without complication, according to Navy Diver 2nd Class Kyle Fox, who planned the removal. The team used a scissors jack to free the front of the inverted boat from the reef and then inserted and filled a lift bag in the center well of the boat which then righted itself. "We were lucky," said Fox. "Because then the tide came in and brought the boat right in to the beach." 

Once the boat was on the beach, GEPA coordinated and oversaw its removal by a contractor for appropriate disposal. The boat had no markings and its ownership was not determined.

"It was the easiest to accomplish in a short amount of time with no need for any additional permit requirements," said San Nicolas. "We basically just need to be sensitive to the marine environment and get the boat on shore with the least amount of potential damage to the environment and to human health."

The ongoing salvage surveys are necessary to determine if salvaging is feasible and to obtain the information necessary to prepare environmental permits for removal. "The dive team offered to come up and do some salvage surveys for us," said Troy Imamura, Solid Waste Division program manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas. "That's what this part of the mission is now. The surveys are to identify the vessels and to see if there's essential fish habitat or endangered species that might be associated with them, which would require more intensive evaluation before they can be removed."

"They identified nine locations for us to look at while we're here," said Senior Chief Navy Master Diver Kevin Parsons of MSDU 1. "In June we'll come back, and depending on permitting and what they say we can and can't take, we're anticipating four of those nine will be objects that we can safely remove from the water."

Entities comprising the One Guam team for the DIVEX17 boat removal include GEPA, Joint Region Marianas, NAVFAC Marianas, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam, Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Port Authority of Guam and Bureau of Statistics and Plans Guam Coastal Management Program.