Video: Salvors Use Helicopter to Defuel Grounded Yacht on Maui

Image courtesy Hawaii DLNR

Published Feb 26, 2023 7:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvors have successfully defueled the luxury yacht that ran aground in Maui's Honolua Bay, and salvage operations are ongoing. 

Last Monday, the 94-foot yacht Nakoa grounded on the north side of Maui's Honolua Bay, a state-protected marine sanctuary.The owner told local media that the yacht's mooring line parted early Monday morning in a "freak accident," resulting in the boat drifting ashore. 

The yacht released diesel into the water Tuesday when the bilge pumps activated, the owner told the AP. An initial refloat attempt was not successful, and the owner notified state and federal authorities that he was unable to pay for defueling, officials told local media. The U.S. Coast Guard federalized the pollution response effort and used the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to hire in a remediation contractor. Over the course of the week, the pollution-response team removed nearly 500 gallons of petroleum and 14 marine batteries from the vessel, without further incident. 

The contractor, Sea Engineering, pumped the yacht's fuel into 55-gallon drums on the stern. A helicopter operator then flew the drums off the yacht using a line, landing them in an open area nearby for retrieval and removal by truck. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the operation took three days. It proceeded slowly because the boat was listing and the fuel pooled up in each segment of the tank baffles, according to Maui Now. 

With defueling completed, the federal responsibility for pollution-abatement is over and responsibility for wreck removal lies with the State of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources. The department has hired a second contractor, Visionary Marine, to remove the vessel beginning Sunday. 

The total salvage cost is expected to exceed $450,000, and the state plans to bill the owner for the expense. The owner could potentially face additional fines in connection with the grounding, given its location in a marine sanctuary.