Royal Miss Belmar Removed from Great St. James Island

The Colombia New York barge with a 440-ton crane hoists the Royal Miss Belmar passenger ferry during salvage operations by Don Jon Marine Co., Coast Guard, federal and local agencies and local commercial salvage companies.

The 89-foot ferry was removed more than a month after the Royal Miss Belmar ran aground on Great St. James island injuring five of its 98 passengers, who were traveling back to St. Croix at the close of St. John Festival on July 4.

Residents watched from different vantage points on the western end of St. John midday on Saturday, August 13, as Don Jon Marine Co. salvage crews on board the tug boat Mary Alice, with the help of the 400-ton New York-based revolving barge crane Colombia-New York, plucked the ferry from the rocks and hoisted it onto the barge.

The operation, which took approximately six hours to complete, was overseen by Coast Guard Incident Management personnel.

“This removal operation was a success due to the systematic coordination and planning efforts between federal and local agencies, local commercial salvage companies and Don Jon Marine Co. to safely remove the Royal Miss Belmar from its grounded location,” said Lt. Kristen Preble, Coast Guard Sector San Juan Chief of Incident Management.

The crane and required equipment were set up within two hours of the salvage crew’s arrival, including the fastening of a series of cargo straps around the bottom of the Royal Miss Belmar.

The passenger ferry was transported to Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas where it was further secured before being transported to Savannah, Georgia, where assessments will be made to determine the Royal Miss Belmar’s future.


Other agencies assisting on scene were the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Sea Tow and Husky Salvage.


The Royal Miss Belmar ran hard aground on the northeastern shore of Great St. James island on the night of July 4 just before 10 p.m., minutes after it departed Cruz Bay for St. Croix.

A crew of St. John Rescue emergency responders spent the rest of the night ferrying all on board, some on stretchers, over the ferry’s aft gunwale and down about eight feet to a life raft tied to the stern of the vessel.

The rescue effort would have been tricky enough in daylight, but the emergency came in the pitch dark of night in rough seas and high winds, according to emergency responders.

The evacuation effort was completed at 5:30 a.m. the morning of July 5. Injuries sustained in the accident were not critical, and the Royal Miss Belmar remained aground until its August 13 removal.

Coast Guard Marine investigators continue working with the vessel owner and local authorities to investigate the cause of the grounding.