After four months, progress on removing sunken tugboat

Four months after the 96-foot tugboat Challenger sank in Gastineau Channel, detailed efforts to remove the hulk are about to begin.

On Friday, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Juneau spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Ferreira announced that the Coast Guard has received approval (and funding) to remove the Challenger.

“We will make it a priority to keep the community and stakeholders informed throughout this process,” said Capt. Shannan Greene, commander of Coast Guard Sector Juneau, in a prepared statement.

According to the Coast Guard, Global Diving and Salvage has been awarded the contract to remove the Challenger from the spot where it has rested, surrounded by an orange oil-spill containment boom, since Sept. 12.

The Empire has requested a copy of the removal plan, which has not yet been released. A team from Global Diving and Salvage is expected to begin diving on the wreck this week to recheck its condition and determine whether the plan needs to be changed.

Heavy equipment will be needed to remove the tugboat, which was built in World War II to serve the U.S. Army. The removal will take several weeks, and the wreck is expected to be removed in sections and destroyed. The Coast Guard has not yet announced what will be done with the wreckage, though a Capitol Landfill official said inquiries had been made about disposing of the Challenger there. Were the tugboat to end up in the landfill, it would have to be scrubbed of hazardous materials first.

Funding for the Challenger’s removal will come from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is likely to seek repayment from R.D. Robinson, the last-known owner of the Challenger. Approval to use the fund for removal of the Challenger had to come from headquarters, Coast Guard officials said, leading to a slow process.

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