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Salvors Assess Spill Risk From Grounded Fishing Vessel in Marin County

cal spill watch
American Challenger aground, bottom center (Cal Spill Watch)

Published Mar 10, 2021 6:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvage crews are working to prevent a possible spill from the grounded fishing vessel American Challenger, which went onto a rocky beach in Bodega Bay, California on Friday morning. 

At about 0845 hours Friday, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco received a report that the fishing vessel American Challenger was adrift after the tug that was towing her lost propulsion. The cutter Hawksbill diverted to the scene to monitor both vessels. In deteriorating sea conditions and visibility, towing proved to be impossible, and the tug was anchored for later safe retrieval by another tugboat. The Hawksbill remained on scene with the American Challenger, and at about 0100 hours Saturday, the crew reported the vessel aground on a rocky shore south of Estero de San Antonio (about 40 nm to the northwest of San Francisco). 

Light sheening has been observed near the vessel, and shoreline assessment teams have reported some oil contamination on the beach nearby. As a precautionary measure, 4,000 feet of boom was deployed to protect oyster beds in an inlet to the south of the site.

On Tuesday, marine surveyors boarded the American Challenger to continue an inspection of the vessel’s fuel tanks using sounding tapes. Due to the vessel’s precarious perch, the process will take time to ensure the safety of the surveyors. Rough weather has periodically delayed the boarding and inspection process. 

No impacts to wildlife have been reported, and the response has not disrupted commercial marine traffic. Federal officials have assumed up-front funding responsibility and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is currently covering the cost of the operations. 

The joint response involves units from the Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marin County Office of Emergency Services and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.