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Oil spills from cargo ship’s fractured hull near New York Harbor

Jun 4, 2019 12:15 PM
Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, assesses cleanup operations on March 29 after oil spilled into the Arthur Kill waterway from the containership Dublin Express. The incident resulted in a 400-yard-long band of tar balls washing up on a nearby beach.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, assesses cleanup operations on March 29 after oil spilled into the Arthur Kill waterway from the containership Dublin Express. The incident resulted in a 400-yard-long band of tar balls washing up on a nearby beach.

A German-flagged cargo ship leaked up to 100,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel during a voyage up the East Coast, reportedly after a shipping container fell overboard and damaged the vessel’s hull.

Crew aboard the 922-foot Dublin Express reported sheening at 1400 on March 28 while the vessel unloaded at Staten Island’s Global Marine New York Container Terminal in the Arthur Kill waterway. Authorities later traced the leak to a 15-by-15-inch hole alongside the ship’s No. 4 fuel tank.

Authorities said a band of tar balls 400 yards long by 2 feet wide washed up on the beach at Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, Queens. Testing confirmed the oil and tar came from the cargo ship.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the damage stemmed from a shipping container that fell overboard days earlier in heavy seas. The agency did not specify when the incident occurred. The Coast Guard has not officially determined the cause of the leak.

“USCG Sector New York notified (NOAA) that the container vessel Dublin Express’ hull was damaged by a container that fell from her deck in heavy sea conditions. It is reported that between 12 and 16 containers were lost,” NOAA said in a report noting the fuel spill into the waterway.

A spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd, the German shipper that owns the vessel, confirmed Dublin Express lost containers in “heavy swell” while sailing from Port Everglades, Fla., to New York. He did not say when or where the containers fell overboard, or what they carried.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Nicole Groll said the stormy weather occurred while the ship was off the Carolinas.

“Please understand that it is still too early to make an accurate assessment of the damage. At present, we are not able to say the time at which the damage occurred and what caused it,” Hapag-Lloyd spokesman Tim Seifert said in a March 30 email.

It’s not clear how long Dublin Express was tied up in Staten Island before crews noticed the leak. Once they did, responders placed boom around the ship. Authorities later traced the leak to the gash roughly 10 feet below the waterline. Divers patched the hole at night on March 28, Groll said.

The Coast Guard established a unified command with authorities from New York and New Jersey as well as Hapag-Lloyd representative Gallagher Marine. Dublin Express’ No. 4 tank can hold 300,000 gallons of fuel, and investigators believe 100,000 gallons escaped during the ship’s voyage up the East Coast. Skimmers deployed throughout New York Harbor collected roughly 35,000 gallons of oily water. Cleanup operations in Jacob Riis Park concluded on April 2.

Authorities cleared Dublin Express to leave New York a week after the incident. AIS data shows the vessel stopped in Baltimore, Md., and Charleston, S.C., over the next four days.

Dublin Express was the second containership in five weeks that leaked fuel while at dock, according to the Coast Guard. Fuel escaped from a fracture in the 758-foot Matsonia while it was docked in the Port of Oakland on Feb. 21. The cause of that incident is unknown, and authorities haven’t said how much fuel spilled into the waterway.

Groll said the agency is committed to finding out what happened with Dublin Express “in order to prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”

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