Environmental safety for an artificial reef

    Matrix New World Engineering helped prepare the Kraken, a 6,000-ton, 371-foot-long former cargo vessel, for use as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Sinking a 6,000-ton, 371-foot-long former cargo vessel to help create an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico must strictly adhere to rigorous federal and state environmental regulations. That’s where Matrix New World Engineering’s expertise proved invaluable to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Artificial Reef Program. The firm ensured that the cargo ship Kraken — recently sunk 67 miles off the Galveston coast — was free of environmental hazards and safe to support coral, fish, sea turtles, and other aquatic life.

    “To prepare the Kraken for its new life as an artificial reef, Matrix played a vital role ensuring and verifying that cleanup contractors removed oil, fuel, damaged paint, asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other potential hazards from the vessel,” said Douglas Jackson, senior project manager for Matrix, based in the firm’s Houston office.

    Working under the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s contract with Kansas-based Terracon, Matrix provided oversight for six months’ worth of work that enabled the Kraken to meet the strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Best Management Practices for vessels to be reefed.

    Controlled sinking of the former cargo ship in May 2016 created a diving attraction and marine habitat.

    “The Kraken will become an underwater destination for divers, so Matrix also took great care to see vessel modifications would ensure diver safety,” said Jackson.

    Contractors were tasked with removing debris, certain types of pipes, and other parts that could become loose or dislodged in saltwater over time. The Kraken’s final resting place is close to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, a triad of coral reef systems popular with divers and fishermen located about 100 miles off the Gulf Coast.

    According to Jackson, this is the second ship-reefing project Matrix has undertaken for the Texas Parks & Wildlife since 2014, when it handled environmental oversight for a derelict 155-foot freighter, the “Kinta S,” scuttled off Mustang Island to become part of the Corpus Christi Nearshore Reef.

    The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department manages one of the world’s largest active artificial reef programs with nearly 70 separate underwater locations. Artificial reefs are essential in the Gulf of Mexico where there are few natural habitats for corals, barnacles, and sponges — the basis of the aquatic food chain.

    “This is a great opportunity to take a ship, clean it up, have it reefed in an upright position, and create a diving attraction in addition to a marine habitat,” said J. Dale Shively, director of the artificial reef project. “To create an artificial reef, the environment needs to be stable, complex, and durable. A ship is all these things.”

    Cahaba Disaster Recovery, LLC towed the Kraken from Trinidad to Brownsville, Texas, in May 2016. The firm completed clean-up, modification, and sunk the ship under its contract with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

    Funding for the project came from donations and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill natural resource damage settlement, jointly provided by natural resource trustee agencies in Texas, which include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Texas General Land Office.

    Watch a video of the sinking of the Kraken at https://youtu.be/cuB0FsI7ppI.

    Information provided by Matrix New World Engineering (www.matrixneworld.com), a woman-owned, full-service engineering and environmental services firm.