Salvors to Refloat Grounded Ferry on Saturday

Image courtesy USCG

By MarEx 2016-08-19 21:13:57

The U.S. Coast Guard's Seventh District said Friday that salvors are near to refloating the grounded passenger ferry Caribbean Fantasy. 

Divers have performed an inspection and found no damage to her hull. The salvage firm Ardent is preparing a plan to refloat the ship on Saturday and tow her to Pier 15 in San Juan Harbor. 

The fire continues to burn, the Coast Guard said, but it is confined to engineering spaces and is in decline. 

On Friday, response personnel located and recovered the remains of two deceased pets on board; the animals, both dogs, were reported missing on Thursday. The owners have been informed of the loss, and all pets on board have now been accounted for (including five animals rescued in the initial response). 

The Fantasy caught fire near San Juan, Puerto Rico early on Wednesday, then drifted aground just off of Punta Salinas. 

The Coast Guard has confirmed that all passengers and crew from the vessel are safely accounted for. Local media said that 100 individuals were treated by first responders for minor injuries and 24 were transferred to the hospital for treatment.

The Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board, RINA Services and the vessel’s flag state, Panama, are conducting a marine casualty investigation. 

Officials have not yet suggested any causal factors for the fire and grounding.

Inspection records indicate that the Caribbean Fantasy has been cited multiple times for deficiencies related to her engineering spaces, including a six-day detention last month related to unspecified issues with her auxiliary engines; the inspectors also found that the cleanliness of the engine room was "not as required” and that the emergency fire pump was “not properly maintained."

In addition, one week before the grounding, inspectors in Puerto Rico noted problems with fixed fire fighting systems, fire detection systems and ventilation. 

In all, records collated by ProPublica show over 100 deficiencies noted by USCG inspectors over the last five years, including missing exhaust lagging, a potential source of ignition, in April 2015; a fuel oil weep on the No. 3 generator in October 2014; fuel oil leaks in two high pressure fuel lines on the port side generator in March 2014; excessive oily water in bilges in 2011; and multiple instances in which fire doors were found to operate improperly. 

Media reports and company posts dating from June indicate that the Fantasy had just been fully renovated before the fire.