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Video: Salvors Work to Refloat Harbor Cruise Vessel off Lahaina

Maui grounding
Courtesy DLNR

Published May 26, 2024 3:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hawaiian state authorities are working to defuel and remove a harbor cruise boat that ran aground off the coast of Lahaina, the seaside town that was hit by a devastating fire last fall. 

The 100-foot harbor cruise boat Maui Princess went aground off Lahaina on May 16 after her moorings parted and she went adrift, and has remained high and dry ever since. Photos from the scene suggest that she grounded on a bar about 100 yards off the beach, in the surf zone. 

Maui Princess had 2,500 gallons of diesel on board, and a contractor was hired to remove the potential pollutant threat with a rarely-used method, normally reserved for casualties in hard-to-access locations: repeated helicopter flights. 

David Willoughby of Willoughby Consulting was hired to lead the defueling effort, according to Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources. In a statement, he estimated that it would take nine to 10 flights to remove most of the fuel. “Compared to some other groundings I’ve been involved with, while in the U.S. Coast Guard, and while owning my own company, this one is relatively easy,” he said.

Once the pollution abatement work is completed, the vessel will be refloated and removed. 

According to the DLNR, high surf has prevented a full assessment of any harm to the marine environment, and this will have to wait for calmer conditions. 

Hawaii Public Radio reports that Maui Princess lost her normal berth in Lahaina in the devastating wildfire last August, and has had trouble finding a mooring since. DLNR reports that she was anchored offshore in the time period leading up to the casualty. 

The vessel's operator told Hawaii News Now that his crew had taken appropriate precautions to avoid a mishap, and that a component failure caused the breakaway and grounding. He emphasized that the vessel is insured.