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U.S. Navy Assists in Local Effort to Reopen Thimble Shoals Channel

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS160205-20
Release Date: 2/5/2016 9:02:00 PM

From U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- The Thimble Shoals Channel reopened Feb. 5 after a combined effort from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Beach Police Department, and the Virginia Pilots Association.

The Coast Guard placed restrictions on the main shipping channel entering the Chesapeake Bay near Virginia Beach last night after a ship under tow collided with a lighted buoy channel marker (Bouy 11).

The buoy, 8-feet wide and 26-feet tall, was dragged before detaching and presenting an unknown hazard to shipping in the channel.

Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads led the collaborative effort to locate the buoy, survey the area for possible navigational hazards, and reopen the channel.

The Maritime Incident Response Team, with the assistance of the U.S. Navy salvage ship USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53), and members of Mobile Diving Salvage Unit Two (MDSU2) provided immediate response in the search for the lighted buoy. Despite 35+ knot winds, rain, poor visibility and heavy seas, the team was able to ensure there were no hazards to navigation in the channel, said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Bailey, MDSU2 executive officer.

'This was a complex situation that required the work of multiple agencies,' said Capt. Christopher Keane, captain of the port for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.

'If it weren't for the outstanding partnership and cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy and local agency partners working in concert with the Coast Guard, surveying and reopening the channel to all traffic would have been a much more complex task,' said Keane. 'We were able to reopen the waterway and restore shipping in Hampton Roads because of this collaborative effort.'

Upon completion of the channel survey operations the Grapple returned to Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

According to the port of Virginia's website, the Thimble Shoals channel is a vital part of a port which 'shelters the world's largest naval base; a robust shipbuilding and repair industry; a thriving export coal trade and the sixth largest containerized cargo complex in the United States.'

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