U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan tasked the Atlantic Strike Team here to oversee contractors and site safety for the disassembly of a freighter ship, Motor Vessel Jireh, grounded in a coral reef June 21at Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
The AST was tasked for their unique role in the Coast Guard because they are one of only three highly trained teams equipped to respond to a biological crisis.
A unified command composed of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and U.S. Coast Guard are managing the operation. However, each agency still has its respective responsibilities.
Managing all expenses allocated to the command for disposal of the ship is being done by the AST, including controlling inflation of expenses and ensuring contractors receive their pay.
Scrapping and salvaging of potentially hazardous cargo or ship parts, like the 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel Motor Vessel Jireh was carrying, is the responsibility of the unified command. The freighter disassembly plan consists of cutting the ship to eight pieces, removing all cargo and sinking the vessel into deep waters.
The AST is also removing sections of the ship to reduce weight, protect the hull and increase buoyancy, before refloating and sinking the vessel.
Site safety, hazard mitigation and source control, Incident Command System support and environmental hazards response all fall within the responsibilities of the AST.
Hazard mitigation and source control are conducted by keeping a full AST hazmat team and pre-staged equipment available for threats of oil or hazardous substances releases.
The AST also assess vessel damage, salvages, consults and characterizes waste and gives disposal advice.
"The unified command has assumed responsibility for the ship's disposal due to a lack of a responsible party," said Chief Warrant Officer Craig Coburn, AST deputy operations section chief.
AST's responsibilities also include preservation of a coral reef 500 feet from the freighter.
"The vessel managed to find the perfect area to ground without damaging the coral," said Studer. "Some coral there are endangered species and are at risk if a storm moves the ship. Protecting the native wildlife is the right thing to do."
Source: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs, by Airman Sean Crowe. 5 October 2012http://www.mcguire.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123321259