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Press Release | Oct. 31, 2023

Incident Command oversees refloat, relocation of Bonnie G in St. Thomas, USVI

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas – Salvors successfully refloated the Bonnie G and towed the vessel to its current mooring location at the Crown Bay Sandfill dock in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Monday.

“We commend all of the Coast Guard, federal, and local response agency crews as well as the National Response Corp., Playland Marine LLC and DonJon-SMIT, Inc. for their efforts in achieving a successful response,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Flowers, Coast Guard Bonnie G Response incident commander for the refloating operation. “This was a very complex incident, as the Bonnie G response endured twenty-six days with the vessel aground and two passing storms in the peak of hurricane season. We are appreciative of the cooperative efforts to protect the pristine waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands by safely removing this pollution threat and preventing major environmental impacts.”

Vessel owners and salvors will now coordinate further operations to remove the damaged cargo, remaining oil and conduct further salvage or repair operations for the Bonnie G.

To refloat the Bonnie G, DonJon-SMIT, Inc. presented the Coast Guard with a detailed plan to ensure the refloating operation was done safely and to prevent any further damage to the vessel while protecting the responders, the public and the marine environment.

Through the weekend, salvors pre-staged necessary equipment and conducted required preparations to refloat the Bonnie G. This included pressure testing multiple vessel tanks to pump air inside and keep the water out of the compartments during refloating operations. Salvors also staged and prepared all the equipment aboard the Bonnie G for the towing operation.

During refloating operations, salvors used two tugboats, the tug Sentry, which served as the lead tugboat, and the tugboat Limetree Bay, which served as the assist vessel. Once the tugboats were on site, the towing lines were connected to the bow and stern of the Bonnie G. Meanwhile, salvors conducted simultaneous air pressurization of five vessel compartments, and pumped empty the engine room and steering gear compartments to keep any possible oils contained within the vessel. All other de-ballasting operations to empty water ballast tanks for vessel refloating were conducted as indicated by the naval architect.

Once all ballasting and air pressurization were completed, the tugboats pulled the vessel until it was free from grounding before towing the vessel to safe harbor. To facilitate safety and security during this movement, the Coast Guard implemented a moving safety zone around the vessel to ensure the safety of responders and the Bonnie G.

During this case the Coast Guard coordinated with local government partners, including Department of Planning & Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration experts, as well as the responsible party, to create a pollution mitigation and removal plan for the grounded cargo vessel Bonnie G. The National Response Corp. served as the oil spill removal organization for the case who in turn contracted Playland Marine LLC to assist with oil and pollution removal, while DonJon-SMIT served as the salvaging company for the Bonnie G.

Coast Guard Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas personnel helped rescue 12 people who abandoned the Bonnie G. after the vessel ran aground Oct. 4, 2023, approximately half a mile south of the Cyril King Airport in St. Thomas.

To protect the marine environment, Coast Guard, USVI responders worked with Playland Marine LLC pollution removal crews to remove the diesel fuel and lube oil from the Bonnie G as well as batteries and other hazardous materials prior to the vessel being refloated.  The Bonnie G was reported to have over 13,000 gallons of diesel and 700 gallons of lube oil onboard.

To read the previous releases related to this response, please visit our newsroom.

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