Fort Pierce barge recovery starts 24-hour operations
Jacksonville, Fla. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say the recovery team will start 24-hour operations to remove the sunken barge in the Force Pierce inlet.
In preparation for the night operations, the U.S. Coast Guard announced earlier today that they are limiting traffic to vessels with less than a five-foot draft. The five-foot draft limitation is in lieu to full closure of the inlet during night operations. During this time, the Coast Guard will closely manage the safety zone around the dive vessel.
“The crane barge RMG-400, and Tugs Mr. Conner and Brittany Beyel will remain onsite overnight along with several support vessels. All four anchor points for the barge will be marked with a crown buoy and strobe light. During dive and salvage operations all mariners are prohibited from transiting between crown buoys and salvage vessels and are required to contact the on-scene Law Enforcement representative for transit clearance,” Coast Guard officials said in a broadcast notice.
The Coast Guard advises mariners to exercise extreme caution while transiting the area and observe all buoys and markers in the area during the recovery effort. For questions, mariners can contact the Captain of the Port Miami at 305-535-4472, or a designated representative via VHF channel 16.
Challenging current and tide conditions in the inlet – even during favorable weather – have limited dive operations to less than two hours twice a day. Productive dive operations occurred last week only when sustained currents were less than two knots – or 2.3 miles per hour; current speeds exceeding this make conditions too dangerous. By expanding the dive operations, recovery officials feel they will be able to make more forward progress with preparing the vessel for lifting.
Recovery officials need at least two good weather days to tunnel under the vessel. Recovery requires two trenches or tunnels, which will allow divers to run a series of messenger lines to pull three-foot wide straps under the wreck. Inclement weather and clearing the trenches were the biggest challenges last week.
Around-the-clock operations will allow the recovery vessel to remain moored, giving the divers immediate access to the wreck site during five possible dive windows. Daylight operations limited dives to only two possible windows. A second dive team was brought in to conduct the night operations.
The Corps anticipates the actual lifting and salvage operation will last into next week. The Coast Guard anticipates the inlet will be entirely closed during the actual removal process.
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Release no. 15-036