The saga of the F/V Westward, which has been moored in Boothbay Harbor for almost three years, appears about to reach its final chapter. Fuller Marine, which rescued the old steel-hulled fishing boat in a January 2015 storm and has faithfully tended the vessel the last year, is now preparing the Westward for its final voyage.
Jeanne Fuller said they plan to scuttle the Westward at an offshore site in 700 feet of water about 40 miles south of Boothbay Harbor. First, Fuller Marine needs to remove equipment, clean the vessel of all potential contaminants and obtain permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That process is proceeding well and is expected to be completed within a few weeks, Fuller said.
EPA regulates all ocean disposal in federal waters, including disposal of vessels at sea. Federal law requires that prior to sinking a ship “all materials which may degrade the marine environment” must be removed by qualified personnel. This includes emptying and flushing all fuel lines and tanks and removing material capable of breaking free and creating debris.
Fuller said the Westward’s disposal site has been coordinated with fishermen and other resource agencies and the Coast Guard will inspect the vessel before it is sunk.
“We are in the process of taking off equipment, removing all oil, etc. Hopefully, in a week or two we will have everything off,” she said.
Fuller said they had considered scrapping the vessel, but low steel prices and the difficulties involved were key to their decision to scuttle the ship.
For the Fullers, the salvage process that began when they responded to the foundering vessel in a winter storm last year has taken considerably more time and effort than they expected.
“It’s been way more than we ever anticipated. We never expected this to go on for so long,” Fuller said. Fuller Marine, which was awarded a salvage lien last June and became the vessel’s owner last October, hopes to recoup some of the substantial costs associated with salvaging, care-taking and now disposing of the vessel, by selling the engines and other equipment.
Once federal permission has been granted and the vessel is ready, Fuller Marine will tow the F/V Westward to its final resting place.