More fuel spills from grounded freighter
December 17, 2004
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Rough waves battered the remains of a grounded freighter Friday, causing more heavy oil to spill into the Bering Sea off the coast of Unalaska Island.
Spill response officials said a flyover on Friday revealed more fuel leaking from the Selendang Ayu, forming a dark sea foam around the vessel. It wasn’t known how of the fuel had spilled.
“The seas are coming in and the waves are apparently creating some more release from the vessel,” Capt. Ron Morris said.
The freighter was hauling soybeans and carrying 424,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel and 18,000 gallons of diesel when it lost power in the Aleutian chain last week, drifted powerless for two days and ran hard aground off the island, about 800 miles from Anchorage.
Six crew members were lost at sea when a rescue helicopter crashed, while the 18 other crew members were safely evacuated.
The Selendang Ayu broke in two, rupturing a tank that held 40,131 gallons of fuel and creating a spill that has washed into the sea and onto shore in wildlife habitats that support sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, tanner crabs, and halibut.
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Two other fuel tanks in the bow and stern sections of the ship contain about 280,000 gallons of fuel. A salvage team has been hired to remove the fuel from the tank in the stern by carting it out by helicopter in 2,000 gallon containers.
The bow section was initially determined to be unsafe to attempt a removal operation, but officials have since said the salvage team would try to find a way to do it.
The airlift removal is expected to get started by Jan. 1 and should take up to three weeks to complete, said Howard Hile, the incident commander hired by the vessel’s operator, IMC Group.
Fuel has spilled onto shore and into marshland, while soybeans were piled knee-deep in pockets along the coast, officials said. A shoreline cleanup that began Thursday near Skan Bay had to be halted on Friday because of inclement weather, Hile said.