PORTLAND, Ore. — Two derelict ships that sunk in the Columbia River are finally being removed with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard and other state agencies.
The two ships first arrived in Portland in 2006. After sitting off Hayden Island for more than a decade, both ships sunk last year. Now the Coast Guard is carefully removing any leftover oil from the vessels before hauling them off for disposal.
When the vessels first arrived more than 15 years ago, they were purchased by a nonprofit organization in hopes of turning them into a floating museum. But those plans never worked out, and eventually the two ships — the 100-foot military tug Sakarissa and the 125-foot former Coast Guard cutter Alert — were seized by the state of Oregon.
Both ships sank before any coordinated effort could materialize to have them towed away and dismantled, making the prospect of removing them even more costly and time-consuming. Thankfully, it's now happening.
This isn’t the first time that crews with the Coast Guard have been out to the Columbia River along Hayden Island in North Portland.
“Back in 2020 the Coast Guard responded to a report of diesel fuel in the areas of the ships and we responded using the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and removed thousands of gallons of diesel fuel,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Magee, a spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard will be using $1 million from that fund to raise each ship out of the water and then safely dump any remaining oil out. Magee said the vessel Alert sank last October, and it was April when the Sakarissa sank. There’s still no word on what caused these ships to sink, but Magee said that there were people living on them at certain points.
Magee added that the Coast Guard will oversee operations to raise both vessels and transport them to a facility to offload any more oil waste from the two ships.
Top priority for the Coast Guard this time around for these two ships that sit between the Interstate Bridge and the railroad bridge is to protect the surrounding environment.
As of Monday, the Sakarissa was floating again. The plan is to get the Alert, still partially submerged in the Columbia River, out of the water by later this week or by the end of this month.
Crews with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Oregon Department of State Lands are also assisting in the cleanup.