The intentional scuttling of vessels is infrequently conducted as part of a pollution response. Notable exceptions include the M/V New Carissa in Oregon and the TIB Morris J. Berman in Puerto Rico. The decision to scuttle a vessel is usually complicated and controversial, and hopefully is made only after thorough consideration of the environmental trade-offs. This paper summarizes recent case histories of intentional sinkings and outlines the typical environmental considerations and trade-offs. The paper also summarizes the applicable policies, laws and regulations for both planned and emergency scuttling2. This summary of issues may be useful to both spill responders and resource managers dealing with derelict vessels if scuttling is under consideration as a response or disposal method. Finally, the paper discusses the relationship between scuttling and “places of refuge” and concludes that emergency scuttling should be considered as a component of refuge planning and may be a potential consequence if an appropriate place of refuge can't be found.

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Author notes

1 Although released by NOAA, the information in this paper does not reflect, represent, or form any part of the support of the policies of NOAA or the Department of Commerce. Further, release by NOAA does not imply that NOAA or the Department of Commerce agree with the information contained herein.