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Luxury yacht stuck in Maui bay now leaking fuel into the water

By ‘A’ali’i Dukelow

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    MAUI COUNTY, Hawaii (KITV) — A day after a luxury yacht was found stuck in Maui’s Honolua Bay, the boat reportedly began leaking fuel into the water Tuesday morning.

Many Valley Isle residents voiced concerns over the possibility of a spill since the vessel was found beached early Monday morning in the bay, which is not only a popular surf spot, but a marine sanctuary.

Jim Jones, who owns the 94-foot “Nakoa,” said he and others tried to remove the boat at around 2 a.m. Tuesday, but one of their lines snapped, causing the boat to bounce back on to the rocks.

Jones later learned the boat had holes in it and was leaking fuel.

John Carty of the Save Honolua Coalition, a group that has advocated for years to block development around the bay, called the discharge a “worst nightmare come true.”

Councilmember Tamara Paltin, who represents the area, questioned why Jones did not pump the fuel out of the ship before it leaked into the water.

“They avoided it at the first and they had time to pump it out, but they only pumped out the water,” Paltin added.

Jones responded by saying, “we’ve been trying to get the vessel off the reef. There’s no reason to pump the fuel out. We were at a point where there were no punctures or anything, until today.”

The state did not permit an offer from the county to push the boat out into deeper water using equipment on land. A Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) spokesperson explained the first option is to salvage the vessel by sea to avoid potential damages on land.

“It’s sad that it came to this point. Changes need to be made,” Paltin asserted. “After how many shipwrecks we get on Maui, especially on the west side, this can’t be allowed to continue the way it’s been going.”

In a previous interview on Monday, Jones swore he did not intend to cause any damages and was unaware of the two-hour time limit for mooring in the bay, as he and his family stayed overnight Sunday.

Jones said on Tuesday he contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, which has been working to contain the fuel.

“We’re working the best we possibly can. This was an unfortunate incident. We’re all about the environment. We’re trying to mitigate this and get this boat out of here as quickly as possible,” Jones added.

DLNR sent a crew Tuesday morning to inspect the area for any coral or live rock damage from the beaching.

Once the boat is removed, the department will re-assess the area. DLNR could recommend fines and/or repair measures for which Jones would have to pay.

In a press release, DLNR says it will likely take another few days before the yacht is freed from the rocks, and it may require a helicopter.

According to DLNR, “a sheen of diesel fuel was leaking from the boat’s hull and was visible in surrounding water. By this afternoon, a pair of officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), who had been on the scene all day, reported that one of the owner’s friends managed to board the yacht and shut off all pumps. By late this afternoon, the sheen was not visible, but you could still smell fuel in the air. Booms will be placed around the fuel to keep any remaining diesel from moving out of the immediate area.”

In an early morning assessment by DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) Tuesday, divers noted “an estimated 30 coral and live rock were damaged but [they] will need to return to do a more thorough assessment once the vessel is removed,” according to a DLNR statement. “Based on those findings, the boat’s owner could face significant penalties as determined by the State Board of Land and Natural Resources. Corals and live rock (other non-coral reef organisms) are protected by State law.”

DLNR First Deputy Laura Kaakua says, “We understand everyone’s frustration with the grounding and harm to the reef at Honolua, a bay with abundant marine life that’s loved by many residents of Maui and visitors alike. Wednesday, the focus will be defueling the vessel, and then we can turn to efficient removal with the least additional damage possible.”

DLNR is coordinating closely with the USCG, Maui County, and Maui elected officials “to remove the vessel as quickly and safely as possible.”

Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. issued the following statement this evening:

“I spoke with Governor Green today and shared the concerns our community has on what has happened at Honolua Bay and the need to expedite response efforts to protect the marine sanctuary and remove the grounded vessel. I share those concerns as well. I also received an update from DLNR director Dawn Chang that outlined the department’s actions and next steps requiring the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard. I’ve conveyed that this is a serious matter and appreciate the attention of the Governor and his administration to address the situation. I understand that this is under the jurisdiction of State and Federal agencies and I’ve been assured that their efforts are being done urgently. I’ve assigned senior staff to carefully monitor the situation and offer support when appropriate.”

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