DLNR News Release-Defueling of Grounded Yacht Complete, Salvage Begins Sunday

Posted on Feb 25, 2023 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLUA BAY, MAUI) –  Defueling of the 120-ton luxury yacht, Nakoa,  was completed today. Salvage of the vessel, grounded for six days just outside the Honolua-Mokulē’ia Marine Life Conservation District, is expected to begin tomorrow.


The U.S. Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the operation to remove an estimated 470 gallons of petroleum products, other hazardous substances, and 14 marine batteries off the yacht. USCG retained Sea Engineering Inc. of Honolulu as the contractor. Sea Engineering hired Maui-based Pacific Helicopters Hawai‘i to fly 55-gallon drums of fuel from the boat’s stern to a staging area near the top of Līpoa Point, where they were transported by truck for disposal. 

Chief David Jones, of the USCG Sector Honolulu calls the defueling a success. “For the last five days we’ve been working with the contractors from Sea Engineering and Pacific Helicopters, starting with getting on the vessel and putting absorbent materials down to collect any free petroleum products. Then for the last three days we’ve had the flight operations. Folks on deck pumped any fuel, oils, and other materials out of tanks and machinery spaces into the barrels, where they were airlifted to land to be hauled off for proper disposal.” Jones and others characterize safe defueling as a complex operation that takes time and expertise to plan and execute. 

Sea Engineering President Andrew Rocheleau said the 2 1/2 days to defuel the Nakoa took longer because the vessel is listing, or leaning to one side, at the shoreline, so fuel moved into baffles within the boat’s 2,400-gallon tank. “It took additional time to get into each of those compartments and either pump diesel out or use absorbent pads to soak it up,” he said. 

Rocheleau and everyone working on the defueling and salvage of the yacht understand the frustration many people on Maui have expressed about it taking almost a week to try and float the boat off the nearshore rocks and reef. 

Rocheleau said, “The process is actually fairly streamlined. Even before the USCG and the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) were notified by the vessel’s owner that he couldn’t pay for defueling or salvage of the 94-foot-long yacht, discussions and planning were already underway between the agencies and contractors. 

“It takes time, as you have to assess risk to personnel, planning for safe helicopter operations, procurement, and being sure that all government rules, regulations, and laws are followed,” Rocheleau explained. 

Now that defueling is finished, the vessel is under the control of DOBOR. The division contracted Visionary Marine LLC of Honolulu to salvage the vessel and the company is expected to begin work Sunday morning. 

The dirt road leading into a viewing area at Līpoa Point will remain closed during the salvage operations for everyone’s safety. 

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR) 


HD Video – Nakoa defueling – Honolua Bay (Feb. 25, 2023):  


Photographs – Nakoa defueling – Honolua Bay (Feb. 25, 2023): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/yd51dl5sk3nklig/AAAcFVASeMz8QU5QFdb7eZ6ga?dl=0 

Media Contact: 

Dan Dennison 

Senior Communications Manager 

(808) 587-0396 

[email protected] DLNR News Release-Defueling of Grounded Yacht Complete, Salvage Begins Sunday