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HomeNewsLocal newsV.I. National Park Working to Remove Vessel Debris from STJ Reef

V.I. National Park Working to Remove Vessel Debris from STJ Reef

The 42-foot Amokura lists after grounding on July 7 at Johnson’s Reef off St. John. (Coast Guard photo)
The 42-foot Amokura lists after grounding on July 7 at Johnson’s Reef off St. John. (Coast Guard photo)

After relocating endangered coral a safe distance, the Virgin Islands National Park continues to remove debris from the site of a sailboat grounding that occurred in July off St. John, officials announced Monday.

The 42-foot Amokura grounded on July 7 at Johnson’s Reef — a large offshore patch reef near Whistling Cay, about a half-mile from the northern shore of St. John and within the Virgin Islands National Park — while carrying seven Boy Scouts, according to Coast Guard reports at the time. No injuries were reported, and the children and two adults were transported by a Good Samaritan vessel to the Sapphire Beach Marina.

Coral was relocated soon after the grounding to prevent further damage and also to provide space for the salvage and removal operations between the grounded vessel and deeper water to the north, the NPS said in a news release.

“The site had many colonies of Elkhorn coral that are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Some coral was damaged during the vessel grounding, and other colonies were removed and attached in deeper water adjacent to the grounding site by University of the Virgin Islands, the Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative, and NPS divers,” according to the release.

The sailboat remained and while the NPS coordinated with the owner, the owner’s insurance company and local salvage companies, heavy seas from recent hurricanes and tropical storms in the region broke apart the vessel on Aug. 26, the park service said.

Johnson's Reef is located near Whistling Cay, off the northern shore of St. John. (Map courtesy V.I. National Park)
Johnson’s Reef is located near Whistling Cay, off the northern shore of St. John. (Map courtesy V.I. National Park)

NPS commercial divers mobilized in early September and removed the majority of hull sections from an adjacent deeper site, and they are using a calm sea state “weather window” to remove additional debris from the shallow grounding site, the release stated. The NPS is in the process of developing a contract to salvage the heavy keel and engine block that remain on the site, it said.

Mariners are reminded that Johnson’s Reef is surrounded by several lighted warning buoys and must be avoided, the NPS said. Reports of debris items that may be related to the grounding may be provided to Ahmad Toure at 340-642-0117.

The grounding remains under investigation.

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