No Plans to Remove Wreck From Guam's Piti Channel

Courtesy USCG

Published Dec 25, 2023 11:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Guam's Piti Channel is going to be narrower for a while, the Coast Guard announced last week, because of a ship that went adrift in a hurricane and fetched up on its shores.

On May 24, when Typhoon Mawar swept past Guam, local first responders had their hands full with shoreside impacts. The storm also tore loose a quasi-derelict ship, the vessel Voyager, which had been moored at Apra after the owner abandoned the crew.

After the storm, Coast Guard Sector Guam stepped in and tapped the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to remove the wreck's fuel and lube oil. A contractor successfully pumped out about 50,000 gallons of fuel oil and water mixture, and no pollutant releases were reported.

Images courtesy USCG

The environmental threat of pollution has been neutralized, but the vessel itself remains aground on the side of the channel. The 110-foot vessel is large enough to reduce the width of the waterway, potentially impacting some users, and the Coast Guard has engaged with port stakeholders to talk through the options. For now, the service has made the decision not to sink or move the vessel due to "salvage complexities, legal aspects, and regulatory requirements."

“We’ve sort of reached the end of what we’re allowed to do as the Coast Guard in mitigating the pollution hazard and the other pollutants on the vessel," explained Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of Coast Guard Sector Guam, speaking to local KUAM. "Our job at this point is to work with the Government of Guam and the Port Authority - those who use the harbor for their livelihood - and then other federal and local partners to understand what’s possible for removing the vessel long term.” 

Simmons acknowledged that the presence of the derelict ship could have an effect on charter boat operators and the broader community of port users, and that waterway safety and commerce are both important considerations.  

Like many derelict wrecks, the Voyager was an unwanted fixture for years before it ended up as a marine casualty. It arrived for repairs in July 2021 and was soon flagged by port state control. Inspectors found serious deficiencies and concerns about crew well-being aboard the vessel, and though the owner drew up plans for repairs, no action or follow-through occurred. The crew was repatriated in November 2021 and the Gual Shipyard became the vessel's caretaker. The Port of Guam sued to have it removed - but Typhoon Mawar swept it away instead.