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November 30, 2005

Bad weather hinders barge salvage

In an update issued yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard said that rough weather continues to hinder the salvage and recovery of the double-hulled tank barge DBL 152.

Yesterday, seas subsided enough for divers to begin reconnecting lightering hoses to the DBL 152, which is owned by K-Sea Transportation of New York. Lightering is the process of transferring oil cargo using hoses and pumps. The majority of the oil from the DBL 152 will be lightered prior to the salvaging of the barge.

Three cargo tanks of the double-hulled barge were damaged and leaked oil.

The number one starboard cargo tank, containing approximately 300,000 gallons of oil, was damaged when the barge collided with debris on Nov. 10.

The number one port cargo tank and the number three starboard cargo tanks were breached sometime after the barge capsized on Nov. 14.

The entire contents of all three damaged cargo tanks were 1,309,000 gallons of oil. The barge's oil cargo is a thick, heavy petroleum product known as number-six fuel oil. The oil is heavier than water, and it sinks to the bottom of the sea.

Initial surveys indicate that a large portion of the oil in the damaged cargo tanks leaked out and settled on the ocean floor.

Rough weather continues to delay the submerged oil survey and recovery operations. Responders are staging equipment to conduct sonar and video surveys of the submerged oil and are monitoring the movement, if any, of the oil on the ocean floor.

Rough seas and the devastations of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have plagued the lightering, oil recovery and salvage efforts since operations began on Nov. 11. More than half of the response days were lost due to rough weather. Also, after each weather front passed additional dive surveys on the barge were required before operations could resume.

During the bad weather several of the response vessels had to seek safe harbor, more than 30 miles away. The availability of responders and response equipment has been greatly reduced due the effects of the hurricanes on the Texas and Louisiana coast.

The Texas General Land Office continues to monitor Texas beaches for any indication of oiling. The TGLO, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, the barge owner, the Coast Guard, and other agencies have developed a shoreline clean-up plan, which will be implemented if oil is found along the Texas or Louisiana coastlines. No oil from the barge has reached either the Texas or Louisiana coast.

The barge struck some debris Nov. 10, while en route from Houston to Tampa, Fla. The debris gouged a 35-foot long by 6-foot wide hole in the barge's starboard bow, puncturing both hulls and damaging the number one cargo tank.

K-Sea officials and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have conducted a survey of the submerged platform with which the barge is suspected to have collided. The platform was damaged during the recent hurricane.

The 441-foot barge is now at position 29 12.3 degrees north, 093 28.1 degrees west, about 29 miles due south of Calcasieu Pass, La., and about 100 miles due east of Galveston, Texas.

The barge is not obstructing marine traffic, and all area waterways remain open. A four-mile safety zone is in effect around the barge. The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Coast Guard

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