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Historic ship Falls of Clyde is sinking, state officials say

  • COURTESY PHOTO

    State officials said the Falls of Clyde has taken on water and is beginning to sink. Crews are currently pumping water from the ship, while divers are assessing the bottom to make necessary repairs.

State officials said today that The Falls of Clyde, the historic ship, is taking on water and beginning to sink at Honolulu Harbor.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said while conducting an assessment this morning, managers noticed the 266-foot long ship was further below the water level than it had been previously.

“Some crews came in, and sure enough, it was taking on water and beginning to sink,” he said. “We got an emergency procurement to go in today and crews are pumping out water as we speak, plus some divers have gone in to assess the bottom to make any necessary repairs.”

Originally, the state Harbors Division had given the Friends of the Falls of Clyde, the registered owner of the ship, until Feb. 6 to remove her from her berth at Pier 7. If not, the state was going to move ahead with auction proceedings.

Friends president Bruce McEwan had hoped to be able to move the ship to Pearl Harbor until a Scotland-based group, Save Save Falls of Clyde International, could execute its plan to bring her back to her birthplace of Scotland. A previously scheduled lift on Feb. 3 was canceled due to logistical problems. Another plan for a lift ship to transport her back to Scotland fell through over the summer.

McEwan said it all happened overnight, and that it is difficult to know, for sure, what happened until a full assessment is made.

“It looks like somehow the heavy winds in the harbor caused some kind of wave action against the port side, and opened up a rust seam and started taking in water,” he said. “Once water started coming in and the bow went down, it was the same type of situation…Water started coming in through the seams.”

McEwan said both the state and Harbors brought in contractors to do repair work.

Originally built by Russell &Co. in Port Glasgow, Scotland, in 1878, the Falls of Clyde is believed to be the last surviving ship of a fleet named after Scottish waterfalls. It departed from Greenock, Scotland, in 1879 for its maiden voyage to Karachi, Pakistan, then became part of Matson’s fleet before being converted into an oil tanker.

In retirement at Hono­lulu Harbor, the ship became a museum and hosted weddings, funerals, parties, military re-enlistment ceremonies and even a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party.

It survived Hurricane Iwa and two previous attempts to sink it. Bishop Museum, its previous owner, was going to scrap it, but the Friends purchased it for $1 in 2008. It has been berthed at Pier 7 for free since 2008, and the Friends just celebrated the ship’s 140th birthday in December.

The state impounded the ship in 2016.

Sakahara said work to keep the ship from sinking would likely continue for a few days, and that discussions would continue next week on what to do with the Falls of Clyde.

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