PANAMA CITY –
Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 Sailors and personnel from the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) completed a salvage operation at Vasco Nuñez de Balboa port in Panama City, Nov. 22.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, at the invitation of the Government of Panama, deployed personnel from MDSU-2 and SUPSALV in early November to remove a sunken vessel blocking use of a strategic port at the entrance to the Panama Canal.
The teams utilized surface-supplied diving systems, a diamond wire saw, and crane operations using a chisel and crane buckets to break the vessel into sections, recover the wreck, and transfer pieces to a disposal barge. The total weight of the salvage was 270 tons.
The dive team then conducted a final bottom survey to ensure the area is free of manmade hazards providing free and safe maneuverability alongside the pier in the future. The extracted debris was turned over to a local recycling center for disposal.
"MDSU-2 and SUPSALV were able to come together and accomplish the mission, said Lt. Cmdr. Neil Tublin, SUPSALV Assistant for Salvage. “This was a great success across the board, from coordinating with Panamanian divers to the salvage operation itself. This operation is a shining example of successful coordination and teamwork."
The operation to remove the sunken vessel, which had blocked Pier 3 of the Vasco Nuñez de Balboa port since 2004, will aid accessibility to a critical Panamanian port. The project began after Panama asked the U.S. for assistance with the salvage project in May 2020. MDSU-2 conducted the initial survey in September 2020.
This operation also provided daily opportunities for Panamanian National Aero Naval Service (SENAN) divers to work with and dive alongside the U.S. team for subject matter expert exchanges. These exchanges included diving emergency medical/casualty drills, equipment challenges, and operating procedures for various dive systems. The interactions promoted mutual understanding of, and interoperability between both nations.
"Overall, success for this mission was achieved through the partnerships formed,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Beau Lontine, MDSU 2-2 Company Commander. “The collaboration among all stakeholders was instrumental in the overall success of the mission and ensuring the vessel was removed in an efficient and safe manner."
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet supports U.S. Southern Command’s joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American region.