Two derelict vessels sink in Tacoma

The Tacoma Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard and Washington Department of Ecology are responding to the sinking of two abandoned vessels moored at Mason Marina on the Hylebos Waterway near Tacoma early today.

The abandoned Helena Star and Golden West were chained together when they sank Friday morning. Officials say the boats are derelicts – 167 and 130 feet long – that were intended to be dismantled.

Oil containment boom has been placed around both vessels to prevent possible pollution from any residual fuel that may remain inside. Most of the fuel was removed from the vessels last March, limiting the potential for pollution to the waterway from these vessels.

Last spring a fire aboard a derelict vessel Deep Sea and the vessel’s subsequent sinking caused catastrophic damage to the waters of Penn Cove and suspended the harvest of Whidbey Island’s world renowned Penn Cove shellfish. It was recently determined that the fire aboard the Deep Sea was the result of arson.

Sinkings like those discussed above emphasize the importance of proper vessel care and maintenance-even after a vessel is derelict. Although it is too early to tell what the outcome of today’s vessel sinkings in Tacoma will be, experts have already noted that the risk for environmental damage is greatly reduced because precautions were taken to remove the fuel from the derelict vessels. In contrast, if the owner of the Deep Sea had taken such precautions, it is possible that Whidbey island’s shellfishing industry would not have sustained such a blow.