Removal of grounded ship
begins this week

Since the ship Casitas went aground on Pearl and Hermes Atoll on July 2, its owners and government agencies have spent about $3 million on the ship's recovery -- and it's not over yet.

With 30,000 gallons of fuel removed from the ship, the most immediate risk to wildlife from the wreck has passed, said Barbara Maxfield, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spokeswoman.

Steps to remove the 145-foot ship from the reef begin this week, Maxfield said. That will involve stabilizing the ship with lines and anchors, which will allow divers to safely assess damage to the hull of the Casitas and to identify a way to get it off the reef, Maxfield said.

Holes in the ship's hull will be patched and water pumped out, in an attempt to restore its buoyancy and refloat it. If that is successful, the ship will be towed to Honolulu by tug American Quest.

If not, recovery experts with the Coast Guard and hired by the ship's owner will have to plan how to get the ship to an approved scuttling site.

About 35 people, three tugboats, two barges and a berthing vessel for the crews are at Midway Island now, preparing to return to the Casitas at Pearl and Hermes today or tomorrow, Maxfield said.

Endangered Hawaiian monk seals, threatened green sea turtles and many sea birds make their homes in Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which is supervised by the Fish & Wildlife Service. The service's facility at Midway Atoll, about 1,000 miles from Honolulu, has been the coordination point for the rescue effort.

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