Salvage divers clear submerged wreckage from Guam's waters; render area safer for boaters

by Catherine Cruz Norton
NAVFAC Marianas

ASAN, Guam - Salvage divers from nine Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) nations and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Marianas environmentalists removed submerged wreckage around Guam, June 12-15, during Diving Exercise (DIVEX) 2017.

The team safely removed two submerged sailboats from the waters of Apra Harbor near the Port Authority of Guam (PAG), which sank more than a decade ago in the Harbor of Safe Refuge. Later in the week the team also removed underwater wreckage of an automobile from the waters around Merizo Pier.

“This effort was a One Guam initiative to apply Navy salvage training to compliantly remove unwanted items from nearshore locations,” said Bill Kavanagh, regional environmental coordinator, Joint Region Marianas (JRM)/NAVFAC Marianas. “The combined efforts of all involved represent a win-win for the environment and the Navy divers who are working to improve their operational capabilities.”

Kavanagh added underwater wreckage was removed from Guam waters improving navigation and aesthetics while Navy divers enhanced their skills by salvaging actual submerged objects under variable sea conditions.

The seven-member dive team from the Navy’s Mobile Salvage Diving Unit (MSDU) 1 attached to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 73 based in Singapore led the recovery of the derelict sailboats and vehicle while members of the Royal Canadian Fleet Diving Unit took part in the initial stages of the efforts.

“The Canadian divers were very helpful,” said Senior Chief Navy Master Diver Kevin Parsons of MSDU 1. “We utilized some of their gear with the first sailboat that we brought up. They helped out and jointly added their lift bags.”

“This was a great joint project with the Navy; doing a community service to help out Guam and removing these derelict vessels that were in the water, some of them for almost 20 years,” said PAG Environmental Specialist Paul Santos. “A couple of them posed an environmental hazard and definitely a navigation hazard in the Harbor of Safe Refuge. So getting them out of the water was beneficial for everybody.”

The sailboat removals were carried out over four days and made navigation in the area safer, officials said. “The port is relieved to have those boats removed,” Santos added. “It’s a real benefit for the boaters who use that area and for the marine life.”

After floating the boats off the bottom, the team towed them more than a mile across the harbor in extreme heat to a seaplane ramp where they were removed from the water and taken to an approved hard-fill site for disposal.

Meanwhile, the corroded car under water at the Merizo Pier posed an environmental hazard and was removed just in time, according to Guam Environmental Protection Agency (GEPA) Environmental Monitor Analytical Services Administrator Jesse Cruz. “It was really good timing to get it out of the water now,” Cruz said.

“The harbors are getting more clear and this is an excellent opportunity for the Navy to be part of the community and help clean up our island, making it green and blue again,” GEPA Biologist Bob Salas said.

DIVEX 2017, a biennial disaster response-focused exercise, is intended to enhance cooperation, interoperability, and tactical proficiency in diving operations. The exercise included about 70 members from Australia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States.

Photo Caption:

U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 prepare to lift a sunken sailboat in Apra Harbor off the coast of Guam June 12, 2017, as part of a salvage operation during the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Diving Exercise (WPNS-DIVEX) 2017. WPNS-DIVEX 2017 is a biennial diving exercise conducted by WPNS nations to enhance cooperation, interoperability, and tactical proficiency in diving operations in support of disaster response.

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