Monday, June 17, 2024

Efforts underway to remove a dinner cruise yacht ran aground off Maui coast

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Efforts to defuel a luxury tour yacht that ran aground in shallow waters off Lahaina, Hawaii, last week are underway. 

The Maui Princess, a 100-foot passenger vessel widely popular for its sunset dinner cruises around Maui, broke free from its mooring farther offshore on Thursday after “a part reportedly failed,” according to a news release by the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). The ship drifted closer to shore and ended up stuck on “a shallow shelf of sand and rubble.”

The incident did not cause any injuries. 

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Maui Princess owner David Jung hired Willoughby Consulting and Adjusting to lead the defueling effort. The company started removing the ship’s 2,500 gallons of fuel, batteries, hazardous materials and other items on Monday afternoon. 

The release said the process is expected to take several days and involve up to 10 helicopter trips to remove the majority of the fuel. 

“This is pretty calm compared to the stuff I’ve done in the past,” David Willoughby from Willoughby Consulting and Adjusting said in a transcription from Monday.

Jung did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment but told local media outlet KITV 4 Island News on Friday that the grounding was an accident. 

Since the Maui wildfires destroyed Lahaina Harbor last August, the boat has paused all commercial operations and struggled to find a location to be permanently docked. 

The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources is “providing expertise and guidance for the removal operation to minimize any additional impacts to important hard substrate and living corals in the area.” Aquatic biologists have been unable to assess possible damage to marine life due to high surf along the West Maui coastline.

After the defueling, a salvage contractor will move the boat into deeper water during high tide. 

Last February, a different private luxury yacht ran aground off the northern coast of Maui. The vessel leaked fuel into the ocean and damaged coral and live rocks.  

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com.

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