MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI --
Sailors began chipping away pesky barnacles and other sea debris off the various vessels at the Iwakuni Harbor, Sept. 29, 2014, aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
To increase the U.S. – Japan alliance, these sailors maintain their boats to ensure a timely and efficient response in case any fuel leaks into the harbor.
“If there’s an oil spill it that goes beyond the harbor, it is now in international waters, which means we’ll have an international incident. Our job is to contain it within our harbor,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Cruz, leading petty officer for oil response with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “It hurts the environment. Anything that’s from the field that leaks into the water or anything that leaks into the pond, we have to respond to it because it’s our fuel, our responsibility.”
Seaman Halon Hamilton, an oil response crew member with H&HS, said there are several boats used for spill clean-ups including but not limited to; Utility Boats which are used for fast oil responses and towing booms to ensure spills are contained, a Patrol Harbor Boat used as a fast action assault boat, the Outboard Performance Craft which is a fast response boat similar to UB’s except smaller to squeeze into tighter spaces such as under a pier and Skimmer’s which is the main boat for removing any fuel or oil out of the water.
“With its speed and capabilities, the Skimmer is one of our biggest assets here,” said Hamilton. “There’s an oil belt that circulates, sucks up the spills it into the bilge, or storage area at the bottom of the boat. Once it reaches maximum capacity, we come back to port where we unload into a spill truck, which will properly dispose of the fuel, and then repeat until all the fuel is removed from the water.”
Cruz said extra boats that are not being used are under maintenance or it’s just the boat’s time to get out of the water. Boats are scheduled to be active anywhere from two-to-three months. This is to ensure they are not overused and prevent engine failure, frying of electrical components and excessive amount of barnacle buildup. This build up increases the boat’s weight, causing it to use more fuel, reduce response time and reduce overall productivity.
“We do boat preservation to efficiently accomplish our mission here at the harbor,” said Seaman Alyza Yambo, an oil response crew member with H&HS. “We paint the bottom of the boat to prevent corrosion. The paint we use is antifouling paint, which is thicker than regular paint. Antifouling paint is thick so barnacles can’t eat through the paint as fast so when we take it out of the water, it’s easier to restore. We wash it with fresh water to remove the salt. Once that’s done, we start scraping the barnacles either by hand or using a power washer.”
As the harbor sailors make the last adjustments and ensure their vessels are in tip-top shape, they continue to keep not only the harbor waters clean, but our host nations as well.