Grounded yacht accidentally pumped fuel into Honolua Bay, owner says

Feb. 22—Sea Engineering, Inc., a salvage company, has been tasked with removing the fuel and the vessel.

An effort to remove the 94-foot luxury yacht that ran aground Monday on the reef at Honolua Bay during high tide failed this morning and accidentally pumped diesel into the water, according to owner Jim Jones.

The issue has now gone federal, with the Coast Guard announcing that "sorbent materials " will be deployed today to clean up the pollution.

"Due to the urgency of the response needed, the Coast Guard Federal On-scene Coordinator opened the National Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, federalizing efforts to mitigate potential pollution to the environment, " the Coast Guard said in a news release. The is primarily funded by a tax on oil producers to allow for rapid responses to oil spills, according to the Coast Guard.

A crew from the Division of Aquatic Resources at the Department of Land and Natural Resources will assess any damage the boat caused to coral and rock after it is removed, a DLNR news release said. Depending on its findings, DAR could recommend that the Board of Land and Natural Resources require Jones to pay fines or the cost of repairs, DLNR said.

"Based on its findings, DAR could recommend fines and /or repair measures at the owner's expense to the Board of Land and Natural Resources, " the release said.

Photos from onlookers show red clouds emanating from the boat as it lists to its starboard side.

"There's no leak, " Jones, who runs the Noelani Yacht Charters company, said, explaining that seawater entered the engine room, making the bilges pump out diesel fuel. "Not a lot, " he said, adding that the pumps were shut off.

Jones anticipates the fuel will be drained Thursday morning and that the boat will be removed Friday or by the weekend "at the latest."

"Once we found out the fuel was coming out, we turned it over to the Coast Guard, " Jones said. The Coast Guard then turned it over to Sea Engineering, Inc., a salvage company, to remove the fuel and the vessel, the company's president, Andrew Rocheleau, said.

"That's the goal, " Rocheleau said, of Jones' timeline. He is now working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Jones on salvage options, but they have not finalized a plan.

Rocheleau said the de-fueling would take place on land, with a helicopter depositing gear at the bottom of the cliff and then flying drums of fuel out. He plans to remove the yacht by pulling it out from sea or "a land-based approach."

Jones, according to the DLNR news release, "indicates he was never aware of a land-based approach and had no plans to pursue such an action."

"This vessel grounded just outside the Honolua-Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD ), which has the highest degree of resource protections available under state law, " DLNR Chair Dawn Chang said in the news release. "We want to do everything possible to prevent any additional damage to the reefs in the MLCD or elsewhere in the bay."

Community members remain outraged.

"Major state FAIL again, " Tiare Lawrence, a board member of the community group Ka Malu o Kahalawai, wrote in a text. "The first thing that should have been done was remove diesel."

There were eight people onboard the Nakoa when it ran aground Monday, and Maui Fire Department personnel got them to shore, the Coast Guard said.

The water and beach remain open, though people should "remain cautious, " the Coast Guard said.