Rising concerns of diesel spill after 11 rescued from sinking tu - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Rising concerns of diesel spill after 11 rescued from sinking tugboat

Courtesy: Coast Guard Courtesy: Coast Guard
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eleven people are safe after a 95-foot towing vessel sank approximately 2.5 miles west of Barbers Point Harbor, Oahu, on Thursday.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard command center in Honolulu received a call around 3:15 p.m. from the pilot aboard the towing vessel "Nalani," stating their vessel was taking on water and they were in danger of sinking.

As the boat sank, the crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a pair of ships passing nearby. All 11 passengers were rescued and brought safely to shore.

However, the Nalani is now sitting at the bottom of the ocean, and officials are concerned of a large diesel spill in the days ahead.

The Coast Guard says the Nalani is at a depth of approximately 2,200 feet, with 75,000 gallons of fuel on board with some of the fuel already seeping out. The maximum capacity is 99,000 gallons.

"Right now, we're working with state and local partners as to how we're going to proceed on this," said Zachary Smith of the Coast Guard. "We also contacted NOAA and requested an oil trajectory to where, if there's a release, where all this would make landfall."

The Nalani was recently sold to tow the old Superferry barges to South America, and everyone on board was on a test run ahead of a long journey, the reason being so much fuel was on board.

A Unified Command has been established by the Coast Guard, Department of Health and the responsible party. Overflights conducted Friday morning observed no sheen in the water near the sinking location and Barbers Point. Additional overflights are scheduled throughout Saturday.

Shoreline assessment teams have not observed any diesel impacting shorelines but are conducting air sampling and have not detected levels of concern to public health and safety.

However, the smell of diesel has been reported at White Plains and Nanakuli. A Clean Islands council also observed a one mile by 50-foot sheen near the offshore mooring buoy off Barbers Point, while responding to another report of a red diesel sheen approximately seven miles south of Honolulu Airport.

Volunteers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are looking for impacted wildlife throughout the area. The Unified Command is coordinating with local lifeguards to monitor local beaches for impact. The State of Hawaii has not issued any warning to the public concerning water and shoreline safety.

Out of an abundance of caution, individuals who believe they have come in contact with diesel should seek medical attention if experiencing an adverse reaction.

NOAA workers spent Friday afternoon at White Plains beach relocating three monk seals that could be in danger because of the nearby fuel spill.

The public is encouraged to report any observable shoreline impact or injured wildlife to the Unified Command at (808) 842-5058.

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