Monarch spotted next to oil rig: OMSI, Coast Guard developing salvage plan for sunken vessel

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The MV Monarch, the 166-foot vessel which rolled and sank Thursday after being pinned against the Granite Point oil platform, was discovered around 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

After an unsuccessful search Friday, sonar technicians aboard the oil service vessel, Champion, located the Monarch about 10 feet south of the southwest leg of the platform, said Petty Officer Sara Francis, spokeswoman for the Coast Guard. The Monarch is at an angle, with its stern facing northwest and its bow facing southeast, said Jim Butler, spokesperson for Ocean Marine Services Inc., which owns and operates the vessel.

“It does not appear the vessel drifted from where it sank,” Butler said. He said the Monarch appears to be stable.

A salvage master from Scotland and one from the West Coast were en route Friday. Butler said salvers are currently assessing the vessel’s stability and configuration via sonar scans. Once that assessment is made, a salvage plan will be designed with input from all parties involved.

“We want to have everybody working from the same sheet of music,” Francis said.

Seattle-based Global Diving and Salvage Inc. was contracted to assist with salvage operations, Francis said.

Transponders were en route Saturday, Butler said. They’ll be used to monitor the vessel’s location throughout salvage operations.

“We want to make sure it remains stable,” Butler said. “We’ve had substantial operation challenges with the presence of all the ice.”

Butler said he received reports of ice coverage around the platform going from 10 percent to 100 percent in a matter of hours. Wind, too, was a factor as wind speeds surpassed 46 mph on Friday, Francis said.

“This is a very dynamic environment given the ice conditions and swift currents on the (Cook Inlet),” Capt. Mark Hamilton, federal on-scene coordinator, said in a written statement. “Our primary goals are safety of our responders and protection of the environment and infrastructure.”

A 10-by-100-yard ribbon of non-recoverable sheen was observed during a flyover of the area approximately one mile northeast of the platform around 10:28 a.m. Saturday, according to the Coast Guard.

Originally 35,000 to 38,000 gallons of diesel was reported to be onboard the Monarch with an additional 2,000 gallons of miscellaneous lube oils. Francis said it would take 12 hours, or one tidal cycle, for the diesel to dissipate and evaporate. It is unknown how much product remains onboard.

Because the diesel onboard is a light fuel, Francis said “it should have a limited impact on the environment.”

“The Coast Guard is working diligently with the owner of the vessel to minimize any impacts of any additional release of diesel into Cook Inlet,” Hamilton said. “While this recent sheen is unrecoverable the Coast Guard considers any release of oil into the environment serious.”

The Monarch was transporting six stainless steel totes, three plastic drums and eight steel drums containing various lube oils and chemicals. The chemicals are hazardous and mildly toxic. Anyone who finds a tote or drum is asked not to touch it but report it to the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Kenai at 283-3606 or to the Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc. at 776-5129.

Sea ice pinned the Monarch against the platform, which is roughly 19 miles north of Nikiski on the west side the inlet, near Tyonek. Seven people were rescued when the vessel began to sink around 5:50 a.m. Thursday. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

All personnel aboard the platform and the Monarch were reported safe and accounted for, according to Chevron Spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz.

The platform remains “shut in” as a precautionary measure. Product has been removed from the pipelines and displaced with water. The integrity of the platform is currently being assessed and monitored, Sinz said.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, which also searched for the Monarch on Friday, was released and is headed to its station in Homer, Butler said.

Francis said the ultimate goal is to raise and move the Monarch, though it will take some time before that goal is realized.

Mike Nesper can be reached at [email protected]

http://www.peninsulaclarion.com/stories/011809/new_278178726.shtml

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