FV Helena star sinking
The Tacoma Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology are responding to the sinking of two abandoned fishing vessels, the Helena Star and Golden West, that were chained together when they sank while moored at Mason Marina on the Hylebos Waterway near Tacoma early Friday. An oil containment boom has been placed around both vessels to prevent possible pollution from any residual fuel that may remain inside.
The head of the Hylebos Waterway, Tacoma, WA
The Helena Star and Golden West, which sank while moored at Mason Marina.
August 4, 2014
The sunken 167-foot Helena Star has been raised, patched, and towed to Seattle, where it is being scrapped and recycled, announced the Washington State Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ecology.
The coordinated response team was made up of the two state agencies, US Coast Guard, Tacoma Fire Department, and Global Diving and Salvage, Inc.
“The sinking of the Helena Star shines a light on the continuing problem of derelict and abandoned vessels in Washington State,” said David Palazzi, assistant manager of the Aquatic Lands Division. “We commend the federal, state, local public and private partners that successfully brought an end to this unfortunate and environmentally destructive incident, and we will continue to work with partners to deal with vessels before they pollute and risk human health and navigational safety.”
Escorted by the 62-foot landing craft Prudhoe Bay, the tug Red Bluff towed the derelict Helena Star out of the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma, up Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks and into Lake Union to the Stabbert Yacht and Ship drydock for scrapping. Throughout the journey, a four-person crew remained onboard the Helena Star to monitor for water leaks and to assist with mooring lines. The dollars recovered by Stabbert for the scrap steel—though not nearly enough to pay for the anticipated $2 million salvage and cleanup process—will go back to the state Derelict Vessel Removal Program, managed by DNR.
“Derelict vessels continue to be an issue in our state and pose a serious threat to public safety and the health of marine and fresh water,” said Dale Jensen, Ecology Spills Program manager. “Along with the financial burden associated with owning older, failing vessels, major potential environmental hazards also exist.”
A special, one-time legislative appropriation to DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program paid to raise, patch, tow, dismantle, recycle, and dispose of the vessel. Ecology helped DNR plan for and manage the overall project, coordinate with stakeholders, and represent the interests of environmental and natural resource agencies. The Coast Guard funded the response to oil pollution during the vessel-raising operation.
“The Coast Guard regularly works with local, state and federal partners to protect our shared maritime environment,” said Capt. Joe Raymond, Coast Guard Captain of Port Puget Sound. “We must leverage all of our available resources to prevent the pollution of Pacific Northwest waterways, which are invaluable to millions of people in our region and beyond.”
The Office of the State Attorney General is pursuing prosecution of the Helena Star’s owner for the costs associated with the response, salvage and scrapping of the vessel.
“It creates a serious public health risk and environmental damage when owners abandon vessels containing hazardous waste in Washington State waters,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “If you break our state laws and pollute our environment, we will hold you accouontable.”
Because the public is on the hook for this and other large vessel cleanups and removals where the owner does not pay the expense, the 2014 Legislature revised state law to increase boat-owner responsibility for their vessels and prevent large, old vessels from being passed to people who cannot afford to address their needs. The legislation—which took effect this summer—also offers many small-vessel owners an option to turn over their boats to the state for disposal before they sink and pollute the waters.
Background on the derelict Helena Star
This 167-foot ship sank near the southern end of the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma in January 2013. A second vessel was also threatened. The 130-foot Golden West was tied to the Helena Star when it sank. State and federal agencies directed out-of-state owners and an in-state operator to take responsibility for both vessels. Those directions were ignored, so DNR took custody of both vessels in August 2013. Costs for dealing with both vessels by state and federal agencies are expected to exceed $2 million. Contractor crews tried to raise the freighter in December, but couldn’t lift the hull with a single crane without causing further damage. Plans were drawn for another try, and on Tuesday, July 22, a new contractor, Global Diving and Salvage, engaged two floating cranes to raise the vessel and pump the water from it.
Measures were taken to keep impacts to the environment and properties to a minimum, the most important of which was to wait until July to carry out in-water operations. This was timed to minimize impacts to fish and wildlife habitat in the waterway. Other measures included surrounding the sunken vessel and large cranes with two lines of floating boom to contain oil that have been discharged, and additional spill response equipment for rapid deployment if needed.
July 23, 2014
Yesterday afternoon the F/V Helena Star was successfully raised from the Hylebos Waterway and is now dewatered, patched and floating on its own. Global Diving and Salvage Inc. will continue to assess the vessel and get an approved tow plan to move the ship to Stabbert Marine & Yacht in Seattle in the coming days. It will be dismantled and disposed of at that facility.
No significant environmental issues observed. An expected sheen produced as the vessel came up but it was confined to the primary containment. No sheen was observed outside of the second line of boom and no significant sediment plumes were observed during the lift.
This was a state-led project with primary funding from WDNR and support for pollution response from USCG. It was managed under Unified Command of WDNR, Ecology, USCG and City of Tacoma.
July 22, 2014
A coordinated effort is under way to remove the Helena Star this week. The operation is being conducted by a joint team involving: Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the US Coast Guard (Coast Guard), Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), Tacoma Fire Department, and Global Diving and Salvage, Inc.
The operations are complicated so the schedule remains fluid. No safety zone will be established, though the Coast Guard will issue notification to nearby mariners.
Follow the progress on Twitter using #hstar13.
March 5, 2014
February 19, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the removal of the Helena Star. The deadline for contractors to submit applications is 1 p.m., March 13. The contract runs April 15 – August 31. The scope of work includes removing the Helena Star and towing it to Stabbert Yacht and Ship Shipyard (SYS) in Seattle. The winning bid will be announced in late March.
January 15, 2014
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office filed criminal charges in connection with the Helena Star’s January 2013 sinking and oil spill.
January 9, 2014
The Helena Star Unified Command members decided today to postpone operations to raise and remove the sunken vessel until mid-July 2014.
In addition, lead responsibility for future planning, including raising the vessel, is transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the DNR Derelict Vessel Removal Program. DNR also will be lead agency for towing and recycling/disposal of the Helena Star.
The Coast Guard, along with Ecology and the Tacoma Fire Department, remain involved to manage and respond to threats of oil pollution.
DNR is expected to publish a request for proposals for removing the vessel by late January or early February.
Operations were postponed in light of the impending closure of the "fish window," during which in-water work cannot be performed because they may harm migrating salmon, and due to the time frame required for DNR to request contractor bids, select a successful bidder, and apply for and obtain environmental permits. The "fish window" re-opens and restrictions on in-water work are lifted July 15, 2014.
On Dec 5, 2012, Unified Command attempted to raise the vessel. Once the vessel was righted and the lift started, it behaved as if there were serious structural problems. The Unified Command determined that it was safest to set the vessel back on the bottom and get additional assessment of its condition before moving forward. Funding for this phase of the operation came from federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
December 13, 2013
Washington Department of Natural Resources contractor Global Diving & Salvage is conducting a thorough assessment of the deteriorated condition of the Helena Star. Based on this information and on information gained during the attempted lift, DNR will develop the next steps for removal of the vessel in coordination with Unified Command. The assessment, and video obtained, will provide information for the bidding process that DNR will initiate for removing the vessel.
Divers from U.S. Coast Guard contractor Ballard Marine Services, tasked with mopping up any free floating oil inside the vessel, completed their work before the assessment began. They found very little oil.
The Helena Star rests on the bottom of the Hylebos in stable condition. Oil containment boom remains around the vessel as a precaution. Ecology and the Coast Guard are continuing to monitor the situation on a regular basis.
December 6, 2013
Responders will continue to assess the Helena Star and options for cleaning the vessel and removing it from the waterway in coming days.
Crews also continue to monitor the vessel and precautions such as oil containment boom remain in place.
Depending on the option chosen, it could take weeks or even months before the deteriorated vessel can be removed.
December 6, 2013
Crews working to lift the sunken Helena Star have determined the vessel is in such poor condition a threat exists that the vessel will break apart if raised as planned.
Crews lifted the vessel for a first look on Thursday, pulling the ship from its side onto its keel, and then set the vessel back down. This allowed divers to take a closer look at the vessel, including the port (left) side, which had been resting on the bottom.
A release of a few gallons of oil occurred when the vessel was moved. The oil remained within the oil containment boom surrounding the vessel, however, a few patches of sheen were observed outside the boom. Additional response equipment was deployed to recover oil inside the boom. Crews also deployed another layer of oil containment boom. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard, state departments of Natural Resources and Ecology, Tacoma Fire Department and Ballard Marine Services are working to assess the safest options for cleaning the vessel and removing it from the Hylebos based on information provided by dive teams.
December 5, 2013
The Helena Star was raised for a first look, and set back on the bottom pending further assessment. There was a small amount of sheen when the vessel was moved. Oil containment boom remains in place to contain any releases. Crews will continue to assess options for next steps, including the safest way to remove the vessel, tomorrow.
December 5, 2013
The DB General, a 700-ton crane barge, arrived on the Hylebos Waterway early this morning to prepare for lifting the 167-foot derelict vessel Helena Star. A multi-agency unified command is coordinating the recovery effort: the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Tacoma Fire Department, and Ballard Marine Construction. The Coast Guard will oversee the raising of the vessel today and will begin assessing and then removing any pollution threats. Once there is no longer a threat of an oil spill or hazardous materials release, the vessel becomes the responsibility of DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program. DNR will arrange for the vessel to be towed to a dry dock in Seattle where it will be hauled out, dismantled, recycled and disposed of.
November 27, 2013
Operations to prepare the Helena Star for lifting will cease throughout the holiday weekend and begin again in early December.
Divers have successfully installed a lifting pipe through the bow of the Helena Star. The divers cut holes in the bow before placing the pipe through it.
One of the next steps will be threading a large chain through the pipe (see illustration to the right). The boat will be lifted in December using the 700-ton floating crane-barge named the D.B. General.
Using a lifting pipe minimizes sediment disturbances because lifting straps don’t need to be placed underneath the boat.
A “silt curtain” also will be used throughout the operation to control sediment in the water, or turbidity. Turbidity can affect light penetration and harm aquatic habitat and fish.
November 22, 2013
Operations continue to prepare the Helena Star for raising and removal. The time frame for raising the vessel depends on many factors that will be assessed in coming days, but the lifting of the vessel may occur in early December. FAQ of the day: How is the operation to remove the Helena Star being paid for? Funding comes from two main sources:
- The federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund will be used to pay to raise the vessel and remove any pollution threat. Many factors are still being assessed, including the condition of the vessel, so it's too soon to say how much this portion of the operation will cost.
- A special, one-time legislative appropriation to the Derelict Vessel Removal Program will help fund the towing, dismantling, recycling and disposal of the vessel. It's too early to give a cost estimate for this part of the operation because there are so many unknowns - for example the condition of the vessel will be a factor in determining how much it will take to tow it safely. However, it is safe to say costs will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The 2013 legislative appropriation of $4.5 million is for the disposal of the Helena Star, Golden West, and other larger derelict and abandoned vessels in the state.
November 20, 2013
Work begins today to prepare the 167-foot Helena Star for removal from the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. The process to raise the vessel is expected to take several days, and the process to remove it and properly dispose of it is likely to take several weeks. A multi-agency unified command is coordinating the effort. The command includes the U.S. Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Tacoma Fire Department, and Ballard Marine Construction. Funding for the Helena Star removal effort comes from two main sources:
- The federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund covers the cost to raise the vessel and remove any pollution threat.
- A special, one-time legislative appropriation to the Derelict Vessel Removal Program will help fund the towing, dismantling, recycling, and disposal of the vessel.
October 21, 2013
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that Stabbert Maritime will remove the 130-foot derelict vessel Golden West from the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma on Saturday, October 19. The contractors will tow the former fishing vessel to their yard just inside the Ballard Locks in Seattle for dismantling. disposal and recycling. The removal of the Golden West clears the way for the removal of the 167-foot Helena Star, which sank Jan. 25 in the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma. The Helena Star will be scheduled for removal in the coming weeks.
August 27, 2013
Removal of Helena Star and Golden West: The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officially took custody of the sunken Helena Star and the Golden West on Aug. 16. This became possible after additional funds were approved for DNR to address derelict vessels in the budget passed by the Washington State Legislature and signed by Governor Inslee in June. Both the Helena Star and the Golden West have been on DNR’s vessel watch list for several years, but funding was not previously available for their removal.
DNR began the 30-day process to obtain custody in July, at the request of the City of Tacoma. DNR’s Derelict Vessel Removal Program determined that the two vessels posed a significant enough risk for pollution and sinking that action needed to be taken. DNR’s authority to obtain custody is through statute (Revised Code of Washington 79.100.030).
DNR is now working to prepare bid packets for the removal of the vessels. Actions will be taken to raise, remove and scrap the sunken Helena Star from the Hylebos Waterway. The Golden West will be towed to a shipyard in Puget Sound for eventual scrapping.
The U.S. Coast Guard will play a major role in addressing the Helena Star because the vessel continues to discharge minimal amounts of oil daily. There is a threat of oil being released while raising the vessel. The Coast Guard will fund the raising and removal of all oil products from cleaning and lifting of the 600-ton vessel. After that, DNR will take over the project and pay for the remaining steps with state-approved funds.
Next Steps:DNR, Ecology, and the Coast Guard will form a Unified Command to jointly oversee the project to remove the vessels from the Hylebos Waterway. Contractors hired by the Coast Guard and DNR will conduct necessary spill prevention and response, dive operations, lifting operations by crane, cleaning, and deconstruction/demolition operations. General concerns that will be addressed through all actions will include:
- Ensure safety of response personnel and the public.
- Control, contain, and clean up spilled materials.
- Stage equipment and resources nearby for rapid deployment, if needed.
- Protect environmentally sensitive areas, which includes planning for and taking steps necessary to protect water, fish, wildlife, sediments and air quality.
- Ensure resources are used effectively and efficiently by managing the response in a coordinated manner.
- Provide timely and accurate updates to the public and potentially impacted parties in and around the waterfront on the Hylebos Waterway.
Updated spill volume from Helena Star: Based on the initial release of oil from the Helena Star when it sank on Jan 25, plus at least 38 additional days of oil releases observed by Ecology and Coast Guard spill responders, the estimated total volume of oil released to the Hylebos Waterway is 290 to 890 gallons of oil. The mid-point of this range is 590 gallons. Response contractors hired by the Coast Guard report they recovered about 50 gallons of oil from the waterway in late January.
July 3, 2013
Approximately 10,500 gallons of recyclable oil was pumped off of the Golden West, by contractor Global Diving and Salvage (GDS), under the supervision of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard on July 1 and 2. The oil was pumped to vacuum trucks onshore. About 1,000 gallons of oily water also was pumped from the vessel’s bilge. Ecology and the Coast Guard believe this significantly reduces the pollution threat from the Golden West. However, 100 percent of the oil cannot be removed while the vessel is still in the water. Thorough cleaning to remove small amounts of residual oil in spaces such as machinery would require extensive efforts to clean the vessel either with detergent, steam or pressure washing, which would pose a pollution threat if done over water.
June 26, 2013
The U.S. Coast Guard, Ecology, and a response contractor found approximately 10,000 gallons of oil in the tanks of the Golden West after they boarded it to assess its hazards. The Helena Star and Golden West were tangled together at the Hylebos Waterway’s Mason Marine docks when the Helena Star sank on Jan. 25, 2013. Responders secured the Golden West with several lines to keep it afloat.
Heavy metals in paint on both ships’ decks and hulls also may pose threats to the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay under some circumstances, according to laboratory analyses of paint and other material samples gathered when the agencies conducted an assessment in May.
The Coast Guard ordered the Golden West’s owner to remove the 10,000 gallons of oil by June 28. If the owner fails to do so, the Coast Guard will remove the oil during the first week of July. The Coast Guard may bill the owners for the costs for removing and disposing of the oil.
Meanwhile, the owners of the Helena Star have not responded to an emergency enforcement order issued by Ecology in April requiring that the vessel be removed. Responders are still reporting periodic sheen around the 167-foot steel hull vessel due to releases of residual oil from the Helena Star.
It is unknown whether adequate funding from state and federal sources will be available to take over removal of these derelict vessels if owners don’t comply with the enforcement order. Funding sources employed by the Coast Guard and Ecology Spill Response are not available for salvage operations -- they are limited to addressing oil spills and cleaning up the environment. Ecology and the Coast Guard are actively coordinating with other state and federal agencies to seek funding for potential salvage operations.
Both vessels are in deteriorating condition and remain surrounded with oil containment boom. Ecology and the Coast Guard are continuing to monitor the situation to control threats to the environment. The Coast Guard also has staged oil recovery and containment equipment in Tacoma so that it may be rapidly deployed if needed.
In March 2012, about 20,000 gallons of oil and oily water as well as other hazardous substances were removed from the vessels by the Coast Guard to limit pollution threats.
April 11, 2013
Ecology invites the public to comment on the Emergency Enforcement Order for the Helena Star and the Golden West. The Enforcement Order was issued on April 1, 2013.
The order requires the Potentially Responsible Persons to:
- Submit to Ecology a workplan to raise and remove the Helena Star from the water.
- Safely move the Golden West out of the way.
- Provide proof that they have completed the work.
If the PLPs do not file or carry out an acceptable work plan, Ecology can hire contractors to do the work and charge the PLPs.
The public comment period will be held from April 11 through May 13, 2013.
For technical questions and to submit comments, contact project coordinator, Jim Sachet, (360) 407-6328, or Jim.Sachet@ecy.wa.gov
Ecology will respond to comments after the comment period. The work may be done concurrently with the comment period. Ecology may also change the Enforcement Order after the comment period.
April 1, 2013
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has issued an emergency enforcement order (order) requiring those responsible for the Helena Star to remove the vessel from Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. The 167-foot steel hull vessel is spilling oil and posing a risk of releasing other contamination into the waterway.
February 8, 2013
Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard and Ballard Diving and Salvage continue to monitor the derelict vessels Helena Star and Golden West moored at Mason Marine near Tacoma in the Hylebos Waterway. This week Ballard Diving is working to pick up woody debris that may interfere with oil containment boom placed around the vessels to prevent possible pollution from any residual fuel remaining in the vessels. The contractor also is changing out sorbents that soak up any oil releases and resetting the yellow boom used to contain any oil releases. Responders are still reporting sheen around the boats due to small discharges of oil. Most of the fuel was removed from the vessels in March 2012 to limit the potential for pollution.
Two new lines are tied to the Golden West, which remains afloat, to secure it. The Helena Star began sinking Jan. 25. The Golden West, which was tied to the Helena Star, was dragged over to an extreme angle but has not sunk.
Responders continue to monitor the vessels on a daily basis.
January 28, 2013
Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard and Ballard Diving and Salvage continued working over the weekend to contain a small but continuous amount of oil released to the Hylebos Waterway after two derelict vessels moored at Mason Marine near Tacoma began sinking on Friday. Double containment boom remains around the vessels to capture releases of oil. Ecology, Coast Guard, and Department of Natural Resources are exploring options for next steps.
January 25, 2013
Multiple agencies responding to sinking of vessels in Hylebos Waterway
The Tacoma Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology are responding to the sinking of two vessels moored at Mason Marina on the Hylebos Waterway near Tacoma early Friday.
The abandoned fishing vessels, Helena Star and Golden West, were chained together when they sank Friday morning. Oil containment boom has been placed around both vessels to prevent possible pollution from any residual fuel that may remain inside.
Most of the fuel was removed from the vessels last March, limiting the potential for pollution to the waterway from these vessels.
The State is investigating a report of 4 or 5 birds that may have gotten into oil.
More information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.
Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard are working with Ballard Diving and Salvage to contain a small amount of oil released to the Hylebos Waterway after two vessels moored at Mason Marine; near Tacoma began sinking early Friday.
The derelict vessels Helena Star and Golden West were tied together when the Helena Star began sinking and pulling the other vessel down with it. The Tacoma Fire Department placed oil containment boom around both vessels to prevent possible pollution from any residual fuel remaining inside the vessels.
In March 2012, about 20,000 gallons of oil and oily water as well as other hazardous substances were removed from the vessels, limiting the potential for pollution to the waterway.
Ballard Diving and Salvage, an environmental cleanup contractor, is placing secondary boom around the vessels and working to clean up some pockets of diesel fuel in the waterway. Most of the cleanup is expected to be completed today, with continued monitoring by Ecology and the Coast Guard over the next couple of days. There are no plans to untie the vessels or raise them at this time.
The vessels have been moored at the marina for about two years. The suspected owner of the vessels, Mason Marine, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and was not at the scene. According to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the two vessels are among an estimated 230 known derelict or abandoned vessels in Washington state.
The state is also investigating a report of four or five birds that may have gotten into oil. More information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.