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Sunken tug boat El Capitan lifted out of West Sound waters

An 80-foot tug boat, the El Capitan, was hauled up out of West Sound Marina June 19, 2024. The tug sank in 30-feet of water in November, 2023. Agencies involved in the operation included the U.S. Coast Guard, WA Dept of Ecology, and Island's Oil Spill Association (IOSA). IOSA was monitoring the lift with Washington Department of Ecology.


Coast Guard's press release on November 18, 2023 sinking of tug boat at West Sound Marina

SEATTLE — Crews from Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Washington Department of Ecology, and the Islands’ Oil Spill Association (IOSA) responded to the sinking of the 80-foot vessel El Capitan at West Sound Marina on Orcas Island, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Watchstanders at Sector Puget Sound command center received notification Nov. 18 from the West Sound Marina that the El Capitan was rapidly sinking. A sheen was observed emitting from the vessel when it sank next to the pier in approximately 30-feet of water.

Coast Guard Pollution Responders notified IOSA, who responded to the scene and worked with the marina to deploy boom and absorbents. Several trailers of additional boom were brought on site by IOSA as a precaution. The Washington Department of Ecology also responded to assist IOSA. IOSA monitored the vessel over the weekend.

Additionally, the USCG opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and hired Global Diving and Salvage to assess the vessel for any additional threats of pollution. Divers assessed the vessel Sunday but did not report any signs of oil discharge.

Crews also performed a shoreline assessment and determined there was no reported impact to the shoreline or wildlife in the area. There were no Southern Resident Killer Whale sightings in the area at the time of the incident.

The area around the vessel remains boomed as a precaution. IOSA has been monitoring the vessel and marina for additional pollution threats since the vessel sank. IOSA reported sheening in the marina outside the boom on Nov. 26. The USCG responded to investigate and hired a contractor to remove and replace any soiled boom.

The exact source of the sheening on Nov. 26 remains under investigation by the USCG. A joint effort is currently underway with all agencies, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and West Sound Marina, to determine future disposition of the vessel.

Previously, in November 2020, a joint effort between the Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and San Juan County determined the fuel and oil onboard the El Capitan posed a significant threat to the environment due to its derelict condition. Contractors removed 590 gallons of various fuels and oils.

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