POSTED NOVEMBER, 2011
Author: Atlantic Strike Team
The Atlantic Strike Team, based in Fort Dix, N.J., deployed to Rhode Island on Nov. 7, 2011, after a 350-ton barge loaded with 2,000 gallons of fuel, heavy machinery, and other potentially hazardous materials sank to the bottom of the Narragansett Bay, threatening the marine environment and wildlife in the area. The barge, which was in place for workers to paint the Newport/Pell Island Bridge, landed upside down in about 100 feet of water.
Coast Guard Sector Southeast New England's Federal On-Scene Coordinator's Representative requested assistance from the Atlantic Strike Team due to complex salvage and dive operations.
Because of safety concerns and the barge's position on the ocean floor, the contractors wanted to use a 1,000 ton crane barge to lift the barge using two slings, and move it to a shallower location. Then, they planned to conduct a fuel transfer while the damaged barge was still suspended in the lifting slings.
"Our members have received specialized training and have valuable salvage experience," said Cmdr. Richard Schultz, Commanding Officer of the Atlantic Strike Team. "Our sole mission is to support the Federal On-Scene Coordinator and ensure safe response operations."
Once the Unified Command finalized and accepted the plans, contractors immediately began bringing in the specialized equipment to remove the fuel and salvage the barge. Once the operation got underway, Atlantic Strike Team members served as on scene Safety Officers and supervised the dangerous over-the-water transfer of the 2,000 gallons of fuel at night. Additionally, AST members provided continual input on booming strategies during the lift.
"We closely monitored building seas, gusting winds, torrential rains and near freezing temperatures and did everything we could to make sure this operation went safely and smoothly," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Fontaine, a Response Technician with the Atlantic Strike Team.
With pollution concerns alleviated and the sunken barge raised and loaded onto the transport barge, the Atlantic Strike Team’s mission was complete on Dec. 10th. Contractors remained to recover a small generator, a silo, and some other small debris that had fallen from the barge when it sank. Additionally, Sector Southeast New England is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
“The safety of the divers and the protection of the environment were the two most important factors in this response” said Fontaine. “Seamless interoperability between all the agencies involved allowed us to complete this challenging mission safely.”
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