Onboard Video: Tug Goes Below for Artificial Reef

Image courtesy Escambia County

Published Jan 15, 2016 8:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

In Florida, the Escambia County Marine Resources Division recently sank the 90-foot decommissioned tugboat Ocean Wind as an artificial reef, a valuable new resource for marine life, fishermen and divers.

Her deployment will be the first for a new reef site ten nm south of Pensacola, at about 30 degrees 11 minutes N, 87 degrees 12 minutes W.

Private donors helped the county to buy the tug, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission funded the cleaning, preparation, towing and deployment costs for the project. The preparation included removal of glass, plastics, fuel and oil.

“It was actually the tugboat that towed out many of our existing artificial reefs into the Escambia County artificial reef inventory. So it’s very fitting that this tug herself will take her place among our artificial reefs,” said Robert Turpin, Escambia County’s Marine Resources Manager, speaking to media last year.

The county says that its reef program has a net economic benefit of over $150 million and has created over 2,000 jobs.

With cameras mounted inside the vessel as it went down, videographers captured the Ocean Wind's sinking and her impact on the bottom from multiple locations, including the bridge, the galley and the back deck. The footage offers a rare look at the moment a ship is lost.

Escambia County created the world's largest artificial reef in 2006 with the sinking of the 900-foot decommissioned aircraft carrier Oriskany. The area hosts hundreds of underwater features created intentionally or otherwise – including sunken deck barges, battle tanks, bridge spans, cars, aircraft and World War II Liberty Ships.

There are over 2,000 inventoried artificial reefs worldwide, installed by governments and private entities as tourist attractions and marine sanctuaries.