In late February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) contracted RESOLVE Marine Group to assess and remove a sunken barge in the Fort Pierce Inlet. RESOLVE utilized both sonar technology and experienced hard-hat divers to locate and assess the condition of the wreck which was found to be intact with exception of the house structure that had separated from the barge hull. Additional information received by Resolve highlighted the fact that the barge was previously utilized as a floating warehouse with all internal compartments filled with an assortment of equipment, material, and debris. On the basis of this information, Resolve formulated a plan to lift the barge in one section to minimize the chance of debris entering the water and being swept away and scattered by the current. The one piece lift, as compared to a piecemeal removal, would also ensure that no large hull sections would be missed or buried in the sand that might impede future dredging operations. On the basis of this plan, RESOLVE mobilized the RMG 400 crane barge from Mobile, AL and salvage equipment from warehouses in Fort Lauderdale and Mobile.
However, significant tidal currents proved to be an obstacle to the project team, limiting divers to short periods of time to install lifting straps under the wreck. Between the short dive windows, the extreme currents of 6+ knots during the spring tides would backfill excavated areas effectively cancelling prior progress made by the divers. After experiencing this phenomenon, RESOLVE recommended to the USACE that the removal method be altered to a sectioning removal, despite the potential for debris littering of the sea floor. In order to improve and maximize navigation clearance over the wreck, RESOLVE then removed the crane and davits from the barge to reopen the channel to all but the deepest draft traffic.
Fortunately, DonJon Marine had a large revolver crane barge located on the east coast which was utilized to remove the wreck by chopping it up with a drop shear and lifting sections with a wreck grab. While this was not the preferred approach because of potential for debris scattering, it allowed the channel to be opened to full navigation depth.
Well done to the Resolve and DonJon teams!