Crab boat sits on bottom: ‘Unrecoverable’

Photo of Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah WolfFishermen aboard the fishing vessel Titan prepare to abandon ship after their vessel grounded on a jetty and began go down in the Columbia River off of Ilwaco. The Titan eventually sank. A salvage firm has now determined the vessel is unrecoverable in current conditions.

CAPE D — A fishing vessel that grounded on rocks around A-Jetty and sank near Cape Disappointment with thousands of pounds of Dungeness crab in its hold earlier this month is now considered “unrecoverable.”

Last seen close to the tip of the jetty, the approximately 78-foot-long Titan is under 40 feet of water and likely to stay there until after the first of the year.

“It essentially becomes an artificial reef,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Third Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

The Titan’s owner, HD Fisheries LLC, contracted with Global Diving & Salvage to try to retrieve the vessel after efforts by the Coast Guard and crew to keep it from flooding failed and the five crew members had to abandon it early in the morning Dec. 5.

Global tried to salvage the vessel the next day, but had to postpone their efforts several days later when heavy currents and dangerous wind and weather conditions rolled in.

Global hopes to send divers down to examine the vessel when the sea-state improves. Right now, it looks like it will be difficult to get a diver out until after the New Year, according to the Coast Guard.

No one was injured when the boat grounded on the jetty. The accident was likely due to problems with the boat’s autopilot features, Klingenberg said, but added that the Coast Guard is still investigating.

There is no way to tell whether the trapped crab — valued at up to $175,000 — have been able to escape from the flooded vessel.

The Titan was carrying about 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel and several hundred gallons of hydraulic and lube oils, in addition to 40,000 or 50,000 pounds of crab, says the Washington Department of Ecology.

An overflight later in the day Dec. 5 revealed a silver fuel sheen on the water’s surface spreading toward Cape Disappointment and people reported smelling diesel fuel in the area.

The department doesn’t know how much fuel escaped, but a sheen has not been visible as of Dec. 12.

Still, DOE will be keeping an eye on the area, said Lisa Copeland, a spokesperson for the department. The Coast Guard won’t issue any fines, but it’s possible the vessel’s owner could face charges or fines from the DOE depending on any damage caused by the spilled fuel or if there is further need for containment.

“Really, it’s way too early to tell,” Copeland said. “Right now the boat is still under water.”

If the boat can be brought back up, the DOE will look at the cause and circumstances of the grounding and then look at any surrounding pollution that may have resulted.

But, Copeland said, “We’re not really looking at it yet. [The Titan] is still out there and could be out there for some time.”

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