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Sunken WWII Navy Tug Headed for "Disposal"

Mazapeta
Commercial salvors raise and dewater the Mazapeta (Image courtesy USCG)

Published Jan 18, 2024 9:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard and a team of commercial salvors have raised and defueled an abandoned tug from the bottom of the San Joaquin Delta, northwest of Stockton, California. The area has been a resting place for older vessels for years, and this one - the WWII-era tug Mazapeta - sank at its mooring and began leaking oil last year. 

The Mazapeta was a Navy yard tug built in 1942-43 at a shipyard in Florida. She was in naval service until 1976, serving at a variety of ports and bases, and then went to work with a commercial towing company in San Francisco until 1998. For at least the last seven years, she sat at a berth in Little Potato Slough, a meandering backwater off the San Joaquin River. 

In September 2023, after a long period sitting idle, Mazapeta sank in the slough with 1,600 gallons of fuel and oil on board. State and federal agencies have had a hard time finding the tug's owner, according to local media, so the Coast Guard has taken over the process of defueling and raising the vessel. 

The pollution-abatement operation was completed Wednesday. Over the course of the salvage project, about 600 gallons of petroleum and 26,000 gallons of oily water mixture were recovered, according to the agency. 

Images courtesy USCG

Commercial contractor Parker Diving and Salvage raised the Mazapeta using a crane barge and dewatering pumps over the course of last weekend. The response crew sealed, dewatered and defueled the vessel, and removed hazardous-waste items like batteries.

Now that the raising and pollution-abatement operations are completed, the City of Stockton has taken control of the wreck. The city planned to move the vessel this week to Vallejo, and it may be Mazapeta's last destination: according to the Coast Guard, she is headed for "final disposal."