Salvage III salvaged on Sunday

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The barge that sank off Black Island south of Bass Harbor at the beginning of October was raised on Sunday and towed into Southwest Harbor.

The self-propelled Acadia Fuel & Marine Co. barge Salvage III was on its way to deliver a deck load of bagged fish feed to the Cooke Aquaculture Co. salmon farms off the western side of Black Island on Wednesday, Oct. 1, when it capsized and sank in more than 50 feet of water. The sole crewman aboard was uninjured, but the cargo spilled when the barge came to rest on its starboard side on the sea floor.

After more than two weeks, Prock Marine Co. of Rockland began efforts to raise the 64-foot barge on Oct. 16. The barge was righted by two heavy cranes, but could not be brought to the surface.

“We were able to stabilize it but not able to remove it,” Lt. Cmdr Tim Balunis of the Coast Guard’s Portland office said last week. The reason, according to Balunis, was a combination of “worsening weather” and mechanical problems with one of Prock’s lifting cranes.

The salvage effort remained on hold last week as a powerful Northeast storm developed offshore and pummeled the Maine coast with wind and rain.

“It’s a balance between salvage and safety,” Balunis said. “We’re waiting for the first opportunity to float it and get it off the bottom.”

That opportunity arrived on Saturday, when a pair of Prock cranes was able to lift Salvage III to the surface, where a crew then pumped the flooded barge dry. On Sunday, a Prock tug towed the barge on a 90-minute voyage back to Southwest Harbor, where it arrived at about 9:30 a.m.

“We’re happy to have it done with,” Balunis said.

Throughout the more than three weeks that the barge was submerged, the Coast Guard and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection regularly monitored the site for signs of pollution from leaking fuel or lubricating oil. On the day of the sinking, divers working at the fish farms were able to plug the vent lines to the vessel’s fuel tank and there never was evidence of any leakage, Balunis said.

As yet, the Coast Guard has made no determination about why the barge sunk but an investigation of the cause is “the next phase,” Balunis said. “Now that the barge above water we can look at it and interview the personnel on board and at the scene.”

Balunis had no estimate as to when that investigation might be completed.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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