Fort Pierce barge recovery operations

Published March 13, 2015

Fort Pierce recovery operations update

 Jacksonville, Fla. – Choppy and high seas today and anticipated tomorrow are preventing wreck recovery efforts at the Fort Pierce inlet, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials announced today.   

Unfavorable weather and sea conditions are causing delays that are anticipated to continue through Sunday.   Forecasters are predicting 20 mph winds and seas 4- to 6-foot seas.  The recover team will monitor the situation throughout the weekend to see if conditions become favorable for mooring the recovery vessel for diving in the inlet.

The recovery team has worked all week to prepare a sunken barge for lifting.

Challenging current and tide conditions in the inlet – even during favorable weather – limits dive operations to less than two hours twice a day.  The morning dive window is further limited by daylight hours.  Productive dive operations occurred this past week only when sustained currents were less than two knots – or 2.3 miles per hour; exceeding this makes the conditions too dangerous. 

The team launched an acoustic Doppler current profiler on Thursday that collected data and provided divers with real-time conditions so they could take every advantage while conditions remained favorable.   In trying to buy even more time for divers under water, the team is considering using stronger anchoring ties to help stabilize and retrieve the divers.

Recovery officials say they need at least two good weather days to tunnel under the vessel.  Two tunnels are required, which will allow divers to run a series of messenger lines to pull three-foot wide straps under the wreck.  Clearing these tunnels has been the biggest challenge this past week, since dive-times are so limited and the current and tide refills portions of the tunnels overnight.  

Experienced recover team members who have operated in Florida waters for more than 30 years say they have never faced these same challenges before:  The Fort Pierce inlet system is definitely unique.


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Susan Jackson

Release no. 15-035