A grounded vessel was successfully removed from the reef off Kaimana Beach Thursday.
The Pacific Paradise had been an eyesore off Waikiki for nearly two months. It got stuck on the reef on Oct. 10, and several previous attempts to remove it failed.
Crews spent the past weeks preparing and patching the hull, removing excess weight by pumping water and removing heavy spare parts, including sheet metal and the rudder, and adding additional buoyancy.
"This response has been long and challenging, but the professionalism and expertise of the crews that came together was nothing short of impressive," said Capt. Michael Long, captain of the port and commander U.S. Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. "We appreciate the patience and support of the public, the diligence and persistence of our partners and are grateful the Pacific Paradise was safely removed."
At 7:15 a.m. Thursday, crews towed the vessel 13 miles south of Oahu to an EPA-certified site. It was sunk in 1,800 feet of water.
"These efforts are complex, and with the addition of unpredictable ocean conditions, the position, size and weight of the ship on the reef, and its proximity to one of Hawaii's most populated beach areas, it was important that we all worked together to remove the ship while minimizing risk to people and to the environment," said Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
DLNR will now take the lead to work with the vessel's owner to clean up the site. The state will assess any damage done to the reef and facilitate the next step in mitigating the impacts and rehabilitating the reef.
Dolan Eversole, extension agent with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant program, is familiar with the area and knew what the reef looked like before the vessel was stranded there in October.
"In my opinion, I would say this is not a really pristine coral reef, however this does not diminish the impact of a ship grinding on the reef, and what little coral reef there was is probably really heavily impacted in the immediate area where the hull was on the reef," he said.
Eversole says he visited the area several times while the boat was stranded and saw additional signs consistent with reef damage.
"I have, over time, seen that there's a milky white appearance around the boat indicating there's probably pulverizing of the reef occurring," he said. "Until we know the extent of the damage, it's hard to say what this could do the nearshore processes."
DLNR says murky water conditions would impair their ability to do a thorough assessment. Officials plan to send out a crew as soon as conditions are favorable.
The Coast Guard continues to investigate the cause of the grounding. Officials say the process will likely take several months.
Once complete, the Coast Guard says its findings will be released to the public, and action will be taken to levee any fines or punitive actions that may be deemed appropriate.