Juice tanker collides with dredge in Newark Bay

Mar 3, 2008 12:00 AM

A salvage crew from Donjon Marine works to stabilize the bucket dredge New York. (Courtesy Donjon Marine)

A new tanker that is the world's largest juice carrier collided with the world's largest backhoe dredge in Newark Bay, crippling the dredge and causing a small spill of hydraulic oil.

The accident happened at about 1400 on Jan. 24 in New Jersey waters just north of Shooters Island. Newark Bay, which provides access to Port Newark, was closed for about five hours while a flotilla of emergency responders rushed to stabilize the dredge.

Orange Sun, a 669-foot tanker built in 2007, was outbound from Port Newark when it struck the stationary bucket dredge New York.

The dredge's hull was ruptured on its port side, vertically from keel to deck, the Coast Guard said. The 200-foot dredge also had four holes in its bow. It was taking on water, and two forward compartments that house the spud controls were flooded.

A pair of commercial barges helped to keep the flooded vessel in place, and a heavy-lift crane also arrived. The Coast Guard cutter Sturgeon Bay enforced a no-wake zone during the operation.

"The quick initial response from all the agencies involved helped to mitigate what could have been a much more serious situation," said Lt. j.g. Kristin Conville, a Coast Guard incident management officer for Sector New York. The cooperative response "allowed crews to stabilize the damaged dredge, prevent impact to the environment and move forward with recovery efforts."

New York was carrying 3,000 gallons of hydraulic oil. A "small amount" of that fluid leaked into the bay, the Coast Guard said. No other fuel or oil spilled.

A docking pilot from the Metro Pilots was aboard the Liberian-flagged tanker, which carries concentrated orange juice, Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Annie Berlin said. The 3,000-hp tugboat Kimberly Turecamo was on the port side of Orange Sun, escorting the ship toward Kill Van Kull.

The dredge was "spudded down" at the time of the collision, Berlin said. The weather was partly sunny and visibility was more than 1 mile.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., which owns the dredge, said it planned to patch the portside hold and have the vessel towed to a Brooklyn, N.Y., shipyard for full repairs. New York, built in 1997, is the world's largest and most powerful hydraulic backhoe dredge. It is under contract with the Army Corps of Engineers for work in the channels of Port Jersey and Newark Bay.

Great Lakes said New York had begun dredging on the Newark Bay project in the 1,700-foot-wide channel. The port-side rupture is about 15 feet long and between 2 inches and 12 inches wide. None of the seven crew was hurt.

Orange Sun is owned by Arctic Reefer Corp. of Monrovia, Liberia. It is operated by Atlanship Switzerland. Tugboats escorted the tanker to Southern Bay Ridge Anchorage, where the damage to the ship was not immediately determined. The Coast Guard issued a captain-of-the-port order that forced Orange Sun to stay there until a classification society verified that it was safe.

Orange Sun specializes in hauling a slurry of concentrated Brazilian orange juice, which it delivers to a storage and blending facility at Port Newark. Orange Sun, with a deadweight of 43,500 tons, was billed as the world's largest carrier of fresh fruit juice when it was christened at Aker Yards Floro in Norway last year. The vessel, which has stainless steel tanks, carries a crew of about 20.

The Coast Guard said Ken's Marine was hired to deploy boom to protect Shooters Island, a man-made land mass near the Bayonne Bridge and Kill Van Kull. The 43-acre island was created from dredged material in the 19th century and became the site of Townsend-Downey Shipbuilding Co., which built the yacht Meteor III for Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. A Thomas Edison film of Meteor III's 1902 launch was one of the world's first news movies.

The shipyard also built the famous three-masted vessel Schooner Atlantic, which held the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing for several years, and Andrew Carnegie's wooden science ship Carnegie. After the shipyard was shuttered, the Army Corps proposed removing Shooters Island because it is a barrier to maritime traffic coming down Newark Bay. Although it is disintegrating into the bay, the island is considered an environmentally sensitive area because it has been declared a bird sanctuary.

Because of environmental concerns, additional oil-containment booms were deployed around the dredge and in the Newark Channel, Elizabeth Channel and Singer Flat, the Coast Guard said. Minimal sheen was reported on the water, and no wildlife was harmed.

The Randive Co. did the underwater survey of New York for Great Lakes, which is based in Oak Brook, Ill. The salvor was Donjon Marine.

The Metro Pilots' regulator, the New Jersey Maritime Pilot & Docking Commission, said it is investigating the incident.

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