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Office of Response and Restoration Continues to Support Recovery Following Hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands
Shipping container tipped over at the water's edge, car in water, partially sunken buildings.
Hurricane damage in Puerto Rico. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
Several wrecked sailboats and other vessels at the water's edge.
Several boats damaged by the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.
Sailboat leaning against the side of a road.
A sailboat in Puerto Rico moved out of the water by the hurricanes. Image credit: U.S. Coast Guard.

OCT. 17, 2017 — While NOAA's National Ocean Service has completed collection of aerial imagery for damage assessment and surveying ports for potential navigation hazards, OR&R has science support teams helping to identify, assess and safely remove vessels damaged or grounded during hurricanes Irma and Maria.

These teams are comprised of environmental, marine debris and hazardous materials specialists, as well as information managers. Over the coming weeks, the goal is to identify the thousands of vessels that the storms damaged, determine if they are a pollution threat or a threat to sensitive habitats such as coral and mangroves, and then advise the U.S. Coast Guard on which vessels should be prioritized for removal. 

Luckily, neither Irma nor Maria caused any large-scale pollution events, but the thousands of damaged vessels left behind by these storms can have a large cumulative effect on the ecosystem. Some vessels are pushed into mangrove forests or onto coral reefs causing damage to these extremely sensitive and important ecosystems. Some vessels are sunken in the water and can be a hazard for navigation or a pollution threat. Finding these vessels and assessing which ones pose the largest threat to the environment is critical to mitigating further insult to these coastal communities and their economies.

For further information on vessel recovery, see U.S. Coast Guard UPDATE 5: Crews continue to mitigate pollution threats from vessels displaced by Hurricane Irma and U.S. Coast Guard: Hurricane Irma vessel removal operations continue in Florida.