SWS Leads Marine Salvage work to Protect Florida Keys
SWS is on the front line of marine salvage work after Hurricane Irma where we are raising fishing boats and other vessels from canals. The work requires several areas of specialization and safety training, including but not limited to experienced commercial divers, airbags, lift equipment, fuel and oil containment and cleanup, and so much more.
Jim Nardozzi at SWS is directing the work going on in the Florida Keys canals, raising over 200 sunken vessels. Here are a few things he had to say in a recent interview:
Q: Good to talk to you, Jim, and thanks for taking a minute from your work to answer some questions. So let’s hit some basics: How many boats have you pulled up?
Jim: We’re doing canals right now. We’ve probably pulled up 140. There’s probably 65 to 80 more vessels to pull up. There’s two missions here. We’re working with EPA on canal boats only. The Coast Guard has another contractor here working on boats in the harbor and open waters, similar to what we did in Fort Meyers, FL, with the Coast Guard.
Q: What is one of the main challenges you’re facing?
Jim: Accessibility to the vessels. The vessel we’re on today is a 58-foot fishing boat. It’s in three feet of water, it’s got a keel on it that’s probably 48 inches. It has fuel, hydraulic oil, so there’s some additional issues there as well. The keel is broke, so the backbone has a hole in it. We aren’t able to float it. We can usually put float bags and pump the vessel to have it float back up. But the keel is out, the backbone is broke from bow to stern. So accessibility in shallow waters on these bigger vessels is really difficult.
Q: What are some avoidable errors you see that could have prevented one or many boats from capsizing? Is there any way to avoid this kind of loss when you’re up against this kind of storm?
Jim: Unfortunately in a category 5 hurricane, that’s 150-mph winds. You can take every precaution depending on which side the wind and storm surge came in, but outside of moving these vessels out of the area…there’s over 2,000 boats affected…so maybe some boat owners didn’t properly stow and tie down their vessels, but in 150-mph winds, there’s nothing you can do against that. Especially here in the Keys.
Q: Last question before we go: What’s something that you love about the work you do?
Jim: I’ve been doing this a long time. Every day is something different—sometimes storm related, sometimes whatever. There are a lot of people who lost their homes, their livelihoods. So the crews I’m working with and that work for me all feel the sense of pride for the mission of what we’re doing to get people back on their feet.
Here are some images from SWS’s marine salvage work work in the Florida Keys canals as we continue our Hurricane Irma vessel recovery: