Expertise Speeds Sunken Vessel Removal after Hurricanes

The Takeaway: Fast removal of hundreds of vessels, which had wreaked havoc and blocked much-needed supplies, was aided by the U.S. Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Program.

The fierce Hurricanes Maria and Irma sunk more than 400 vessels in and around the U.S. Virgin Islands. The result was blocked shipping channels and cargo ships carrying supplies, marina chaos and contamination, and coral reef devastation. The U.S. Coast Guard jumped into action to remove the vessels—a task made much easier with sunken-vessel information, documented years before these 2017 hurricanes, by the U.S. Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Program.

This coastal management program’s maps enabled the Coast Guard to accomplish the task safely, avoiding injuries from vessel debris and pollutants. The result is that both the 2017 sunken vessels and the derelict vessels that had languished for years beforehand now pose no more danger to marine life or the public.

Program staff members had persisted for many years to document and map each derelict vessel, even though locating owners was often impossible and no agencies would undertake the pricey removal cost. (2019)

Partners: U.S. Virgin Islands Coastal Zone Management Program, U.S. Coast Guard