Pollution Abatement Begins for Grounded Sailing Vessel Near Hilo

The Midway Island aground near Hilo (USCG)

Published Feb 6, 2020 9:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

Responders are working to remove diesel and oil from the sailing vessel Midway Island, which ran aground off Hilo, Hawaii on Monday during a transit from Los Angeles. 

The Coast Guard is working with Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources and private contractors to mitigate the potential pollution threat from the vessel. Reportedly, a maximum of up to 1,800 gallons of diesel and two marine batteries are on board. 

The vessel is aground on the rocks northwest of Hilo Harbor, and the USCG has implemented a safety zone for all traffic within 100 yards in all directions from the site. The safety zone and a broadcast notice to mariners will be in effect for the next week. 

Drone assessments conducted Wednesday provided responders with better insight into the conditions on the hard-to-reach site. 

Pollution response measures are expected to start on Thursday, depending upon weather conditions. A lightering team will begin to reduce the pollution threat from the vessel by pumping the diesel fuel into 55-gallon drums. Full drums will be airlifted by helicopter to a landing zone and then transferred to a vacuum truck for disposal. 

Given the unique hazards at the rocky site, a standby vessel and rescue swimmer will be onsite during operations to assist if needed. The team is also monitoring weather continuously, as it may affect operations.

One person was rescued by the Hilo Fire Department after the grounding. There are no reports of injuries, pollution, or impact on wildlife. As of early Thursday, the weather on scene was mild, with five-foot seas and light winds. 

The cause of the Midway Island's grounding is under investigation.