(2000), "Pollution", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2000.07309cac.004
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
28 February 1999 - Mississippi River, USA
The cCoastguard shut down a 21-mile stretch of the Mississippi River today to clean up oil spilled when m chemical tanker Hyde Park (22,103gt, built 1982) filled with gasoline lost power and hit a series of boats. The crash about 23.00 yesterday knocked a hole in one of the fuel tanks of the 551ft vessel, spilling 3,000 gallons. The coastguard said the 25,000t of gasoline it carried remained safe. The river was reopened to traffic about 17.00. The tanker was headed down river when it lost power and hit a tug pushing 12 loaded barges loaded with coke, damaging one and sinking another. It also hit a dock, a crew boat grounded on the bank and two more barges. No one was hurt, but crews set up booms around down-river water intakes to keep oil out of them. Hyde Park was carrying pyrolysis gasoline, a refined petroleum product used for a variety of chemical processes
28 February 1999 - Following received from coastguard New Orleans, timed 05.31, UTC: M chemical tanker Hyde Park is currently tied up at the scene of collision at Mile 79, River Mississippi. Vessel was holed in her starboard quarter, but is not seriously damaged and has been given class clearance to proceed to Dow Chemical Dock at Mile 221 tomorrow, for discharge. Vessel spilt approximately 60 barrels of bunker oil.
3 March 1999 - Following received from coastguard New Orleans, timed 02.20, UTC: M chemical tanker Hyde Park is currently safely alongside Dow Chemical Dock. Understood the barge that sank has been salved.
4 March 1999 - Buenos Aires
A judge has frozen Argentine assets of Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell Group and a German firm for a total $60 million after an oil spill in the River Plate, a local official said today. Juan Sibetti, mayor of Magdalena, 66 miles south-east of Buenos Aires, said the assets were frozen at his town hall's request after a Shell vessel m tanker Estrella Pampeana collided last month with m container vessel Sea Parana, owned by Germany's Schiffahrts-Gessellschaft MS Primus mbH & Co. in January, causing the spill. In a telephone interview, Sibetti said:
We do not say the damage was intentional but it does exist and someone has to pay for it.
The spill was estimated at 4,600m3 (29,000 barrels) by Shell but Sibetti said it totalled 5,300m3 (33,000 barrels) and affected about 20 miles of coastline. Sibetti said Magdalena had initially asked Judge Ricardo Ferrer for an asset freeze of $50 million which the judge raised to $60 million. The judicial measure is preliminary pending an investigation into the case to determine responsibilities. Magdalena also obtained from the judge a measure banning the vessels from leaving a port were they were undergoing repairs. At Magdalena's request, United Nations expert John Morton visited the site to evaluate the damages and provide a report. Environmental group Greenpeace has accused Shell of negligence in its handling of operations to control the spill but Shell subsequently denied any responsibility and accused Primus for the collision. The report said the Primus ship lost control and collided with Shell's. Brea said:
Shell CAPSA hasn't any responsibility in the accident.
He added that, nonetheless, the company helped in the cleansing process. The spill had been cleaned from the river, he said.
24 March 1999 - Royal Dutch/Shell Group may face more damage claims over an Argentine oil spill in the River Plate two months ago, authorities in Buenos Aires Province said today. Nestor Juzwa, mayor of Berisso, 66 miles south-east of Buenos Aires, said his town would seek damages after Shell m tanker Estrella Pampeana and m container vessel Sea Parana, owned by Schiffahrts-Gessellschaft MS Primus mbH & Co. collided in January, causing the spill in the estuary that separates Argentina from Uruguay. The spill affected 20 miles of riverbanks. Juzwa said:
We will sue the company within a week ... But in this case, we will not request a given amount. We will let the judge determine it.
An Argentine judge has already frozen $60 million in Shell assets at the request of Juan Sibetti, mayor of Magdalena, another Buenos Aires province town near Berisso. Osvaldo Sonzini, Buenos Aires Province's secretary for environmental policy, said that the province urged Shell last Thursday to speed up the clean up but has so far received no answer. He said the province was also considering taking action against the company. Sonzini said:
If the company persists in that stance, we will adopt measures, like fines or another kind.
He added that the province was also collecting data to determine whether it would file a separate suit against Shell. Jorge Brea, head of Shell's Argentine unit, said in a booklet in February that the clean-up had been completed. But Juzwa accused Shell of lying:
It has a very nice brochure with very good photographs and many lies. It says that as of February, there was no more oil on the water. But we flew over the area in March and the spill can be easily seen.
Juzwa and Sibetti said United Nations expert John Morton, who visited the area in March, reported the presence of benzene, a potentially carcinogenic substance, in the water where the oil spill occurred. However, a report from Morton to which Reuters had access made no mention of benzene. The report recommended studies on soil samples, flowers and animals be conducted to determine the extent of any contamination in the area. Sonzini said tests conducted by Buenos Aires Province experts showed concentrations of benzene and other toxic substances totalled one microgram per litre of water, adding that World Health Organisation considered concentrations of up to ten micrograms acceptable for human consumption. He said:
If we consider that those substances are highly volatile, it can be assumed that by now nothing of them absolutely remain.
6 March 1999 - London, UK
The UK P&I Club has paid an ex-gratia "sweetener" to clinch a deal with the Italian government which draws a line under the long-running pollution dispute over the m tanker Haven disaster. Under the terms of the tripartite global settlement which was signed in Rome on 4 March, the Italian government will receive a total of 117.6 billion lira (£42.9 million). It includes 70 billion lira (£24.7 million) from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1971 with the remaining money to come from the UK Club, including the ex-gratia payment. Mans Jacobsson, director of the IOPC Fund said:
We are of course very pleased that we have managed to solve this longstanding incident. We are also pleased that this global settlement respects the two principles that the fund has had all along, first that the maximum amount is fixed in SDR and second, that the fund convention does not allow any payments for environmental damage. These are the two points we have argued since 1991, and they have now been accepted.
Haven exploded in the port of Genoa in 1991, killing five seafarers and causing massive pollution. Claims for compensation were submitted for more than £600 million. The payment has been made without admission of liability by either the vessel's owner or the club to the extent that it exceeds the limitation amount under the 1969 convention. Under the terms of the agreement all parties undertake to withdraw all legal actions in the Italian courts. In addition the owners and the club have undertaken to defend further claims submitted last year in the limitation proceedings from certain fishery interests and to resolve these claims at their own expense. Whether the Italian government wanted to use any of the ex-gratia payment for environmental measures was for it to decide, Mr Jacobsson said.
9 March 1999 - Oregon, USA
Aided by a favourable tide and an offshore storm, the detached, oil-laden bow of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa was towed off the beach yesterday in the second attempt to send it out to deeper waters for burial. The 424ft long bow section was pulled off the shore by m tug Sea Victory. It will be towed about 200 miles out to sea to be sunk in deep, cold water. The trip is expected to take at least 48 hours. The bow, still holding an estimated 130,000 gallons of heavy oil, washed up near Waldport last Wednesday (3 Mar) after breaking loose from the Sea Victory in a heavy storm. This time, storms should not be a problem, with wind expected to decrease and seas running no more than 15ft, said Bill Milwee, salvage consultant to the vessel's owners. Milwee said yesterday:
There is no reason we should part a towline in this weather.
Once the bow reaches its intended burial site, plans call for a coastguard cutter to use its deck gun to sink the derelict in 12,000 feet of water, goastguard Cmdr Dawayne Penberthy said yesterday. The trick, he said, will be to put enough holes in the bow to sink it without rupturing the fuel tanks; a skimmer vessel will be on hand to catch any spills. The stern remains stranded near Coos Bay, 80 miles south, where the vessel ran aground on 4 February during another storm.
10 March 1999 - According to a US coastguard Press release, timed 13.00, 9 March: M tug Sea Victory and bow of m wood chip carrier New Carissa making good progress; the unified command expects the bow to arrive on-site Thursday (11 Mar). At 12.00 hours Sea Victory was 122 miles west of Waldport. The US coastguard and US Navy are considering a number of options for sinking the vessel once she reaches the designated spot 248 nautical miles out to sea. The amount of oil appearing on beaches is steadily decreasing. Shore-line clean up assessment teams will survey beaches from Heceta Head north to Lincoln City today, conducting a complete overview of the area affected by the New Carissa.
12 March 1999 - A press report, dated 11 Mar, states: It took 70 shells from a Navy destroyer, explosive charges and, finally, a torpedo to sink m wood-chip carrier New Carissa. The greasy effects of the ill-fated vessel linger, however, as Oregon authorities try to decide how to clean up miles of oil-slicked beaches in a mess blamed for killing hundreds of birds. Early Monday (8 March), a powerful tugboat began towing the bow, still loaded with 130,000 gallons of fuel, 300 miles out to sea. There, sunk at depths of 12,000ft where temperatures never rise above 34 degrees, experts said the sticky bunker fuel would be trapped in a semisolid state. But getting the bow to the bottom was another exercise in frustration. Remote-controlled explosive charges blew holes in the hull. When that failed to sink her, the USS David R. Ray opened up with a barrage of 70 shots from its 5-inch guns. Then the nuclear submarine USS Bremerton fired a torpedo shot that exploded just below the hulk. Finally, two hours after demolition experts began their efforts, the stubborn wreck slipped under the water. A skimming vessel was busy sucking up a 1,000-yard-wide slick of nearly 40,000 gallons that emerged after the Navy scuttled the ship, Perkins said. The empty 220ft stern still sits half-buried in the beach at Coos Bay.
17 March 1999 - A press report, dated 16 March, Coos Bay, states: Salvage crews have finally disposed of the bow section of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa and her load of fuel oil but the heavy stern section still is stuck in the sand, and Governor John Kitzhaber has sent a letter saying the state wants it off its beach. Bob Applegate, a Kitzhaber spokesman, said:
Our first preference and I think the preference of most Oregonians is to have it removed.
If that is not possible because of environmental considerations, that responsible parties must "provide for whatever long term and interim management of the stern is deemed necessary by the state", the letter said. The governor also asked that a $25 million bond to be posted before Friday (19 March) to cover the cost of evaluating options and to ensure that the stern issue gets addressed to the state's satisfaction. In his letter to a Portland law firm representing the owners and operators of New Carissa, Kitzhaber said:
If the requested assurance is not provided by that date, I intend to pursue all means available to the state to see that the stern is removed or otherwise appropriately managed at the expense of the responsible entities.
Portland salvage consultant Bill Milwee said the question of the bond is among a number of legal issues being worked on by attorneys representing the vessel. Milwee is with Gallagher Marine Systems and represents the vessel's Japanese owner, Tory Shipping Co., and her British insurer, Britannia Steamship Insurance Association Ltd. He said he does not know if the bond will be posted. He said:
Money hasn't been a consideration in any decision we've made so far, and it won't be a decision-making consideration in this one ... We're going to do what's environmentally right and within the realm of the law.
As of yesterday, New Carissa representatives had not responded to the governor's demand for the bond, said Langdon Marsh, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which is taking the lead for the state in addressing New Carissa issues. "Basically, it's up to them", Marsh said. If they do not respond, he has options the DEQ and the state Department of Justice are now exploring. He declined to give details. Meanwhile, Milwee said plans are going forward to begin removing hazardous materials from the New Carissa as early as Sunday. Those materials, according to a coastguard survey, include five 55-gallon drums of hydraulic fluid, a 55-gallon drum of kerosene, 40 to 50 five-gallon cans of paint, thinner and grease, and 12 lead-acid batteries. Salvage workers will also seal hatches and remove any materials that might prompt people to try to board the wreck. Milwee expects it will take four or five days to complete the work. "It's going to be a nasty operation", he said, because the stern lies tilted at a 30-degree angle in the heavy surf. Next week is the best time to do the job because low tides in the middle of the day will limit pounding by the surf while salvage workers are on board, Milwee said. The vessel's insurer has already paid for most of the more than $14 million in expenses since the vessel went aground on the north spit on 4 February. Those costs have included removing the 440ft bow section from the spit, and later from a Waldport-area beach where it ended up when a tow rope broke, cleaning oil from beaches along much of the Oregon Coast, and sinking the bow section in ocean more than 300 miles offshore last week.
20 March 1999 - A press report, dated 19 March, states: The salvage and cleanup costs for m wood-chip carrier New Carissa are approaching $16 million with plenty left to do before they reach a $22 million cap covered by the vessel's insurance company. The 200ft stern of the broken cargo vessel remains mired in the sand on a beach near Coos Bay awaiting a decision on whether the insurer will classify removal as a pollution cost. Normally, wreck-removal costs are covered by insurance but don't count against the cap on pollution costs, said John Gallagher, director of Gallagher Marine Systems, a Virginia company representing the vessel's Japanese owner. But there are plenty of other costs yet to be tallied. One of the major expenses will be the Navy's bill for sinking the vessel's bow section. So far, the Navy has not figured its costs. Bills beyond the $22 million likely will be paid from a $1 billion federal oil-spill-liability trust fund built up through an industry tax established in 1990, officials said.
21 March 1999 - A report, dated Coos Bay, 20 March, states: A plan to remove the heavy stern section of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa from the surf will require tearing the wreck apart, piling the pieces onto barges and towing the rusting junk to a salvage yard or to sea for burial, like the bow. The barging plan quickly won support among representatives of the 22 federal, state and local agencies meeting here yesterday because it would keep equipment and crews off a sensitive stretch of beach that is a nesting and foraging site of threatened Western snowy plovers. Appearing eager to get under way, officials agreed on a tentative schedule that would put the job out to international bidding in April and award a contract by Jun 15. Governor John Kitzhaber has demanded that the vessel's Japanese owners, Taiheiyo Kaiun Co. Ltd, and its insurer post a $25 million bond or the financial equivalent to cover those costs. The deadline for posting the bond was set for yesterday but extended another week at the owner's request. Bill Milwee, who represents the ship's insurer, said even the buried portion of the stern would be removed:
It's going to be quite simple. We're going to take it all out.
The heavy stern section has dug itself deep into the sand about 1,000ft off the beach. The 200ft long stern section contains a multi-story wheelhouse and the vessel's engine-room. It lists heavily seaward amid breakers that have begun to pound through the hull. The wreck removal job could be completed in about three months, Milwee said.
24 March 1999 - Salvage workers began ridding the stern of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa of paint, solvents and oil drums in a weeklong effort to discourage public access until the 220ft aft section of the wreck can be removed entirely from the beach near Coos Bay. Helicopters yesterday airlifted a six-person crew from Global Diving & Salvage of Seattle. The team removed more than 100 containers of paints, solvents and detergent, as well as a dozen lead-acid batteries, said Melinda Merrill, a spokeswoman representing the ship's owner. Still on board are 11 55-gallon drums of hydraulic fuel. Salvage officials expected to begin removing those barrels today as long as weather and surf conditions allowed. The salvage crew plans to make the vessel, now sinking deeply in sand about 1,000ft off the beach, less appealing to curiosity seekers by welding bars onto windows and over hatches. It also will remove the stern's moorings and a lifeboat that survived a fire on 12 February. Also yesterday, a team of federal, state and salvage officials continued its survey of the cleanliness of beaches near Coos Bay and Waldport. It recommended that cleanup of spilled oil on seven of 25 beach segments be declared completed, said Howard Hile of Gallagher Marine Services, a representative of the ship's insurer. The team expects to finish work on the remaining beach segments next week, Hile said. Once all beach clean-ups are deemed complete, crews will end daily beach searches and be placed on on-call status. New Carissa is estimated to have leaked 70,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into Coos Bay and another 2,000 gallons at Waldport. Federal and state officials will then begin a more thorough study of the oil's environmental impact. That process could take years. A second beachside cleanup assessment will likely take place in May, Hile said. Last week, government and salvage officials tentatively agreed to support a plan to remove the vessel's stern section. Officials hope to award a contract for that work by 15 June.
25 March 1999 - In yet another complication in the never-ending saga of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa, salvage crews have found about 1,000 gallons of oil mixed with water in the vessel's engine room. Crews made the find while working this week to remove drums of oil and cans of paint on board the stern section. Salvage manager Bill Milwee says the 30-degree list of the wreck makes it difficult to estimate the exact amount, but it's more than he expected. It's not the thick bunker fuel that was contained in the vessel's bow. Milwee says it's a mix of hydraulic, lubricating and engine oil, some of it used. Milwee says pumps and skimmers might be used to suck the oil out of the engine-room and into small tanks, which could then be removed. The stern remains mired in the sand on the north spit of Coos Bay. Tentative plans call for it to be cut up this summer and removed seaward, probably by barge.
9 April 1999 - Work to remove the remaining portion of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa from an Oregon beach is progressing with input from local residents. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has expressed confidence that the still grounded stern section will be taken off the coast with a minimum of environmental damage. At a public information meeting Monday (5 April) Bill Milwee, salvage expert for Gallagher Marine Systems, Inc., and Steve Greenwood, Western Region administrator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, met with residents of Coos Bay and North Bend about the options for removal of the stern section. They listened to public input on the preferred option, which is to dismantle the stern and remove it from the seaward side. Milwee said that removal by sea would have the least impact on the sensitive environment where the stern now sits. Milwee said prospective bidders are now developing proposals for removal by sea, and he expects to have their proposals before the end of April. Greenwood said:
This meeting was an important part of our decision making process ... About 60 residents from this area expressed their opinions and concerns, and that helps us be sure that, when we plan operations, we consider every aspect of the community that has been affected by this incident.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has received assurances from the owners of the New Carissa, Green Atlas Shipping SA, Panama and the ship's operators, TMM Co, Ltd, of Tokyo, that they will proceed with plans to remove the vessel's stern section from the North Spit off Coos Bay. These assurances were made in a 25 March letter in response to the governor's 3 March request that the owners take all necessary measures to remove the stern and cover the costs of its removal. Governor Kitzhaber had demanded the ship's owners post a $25 million bond to cover the cost of evaluating the available options and assure the state that the stern section would be dealt with quickly. In a Mar 30 letter to Green Atlas Shipping and TMM Co, Ltd, Kitzhaber wrote:
I am increasingly confident, based on your letter and progress to date, that the removal of the stern section will proceed with dispatch and a high degree of environmental care.
A six-person crew will continue working this week to remove a mixture of oils, including hydraulic, lubricating and used oils, from the engine-room of New Carissa, skimming the mixture and pumping it into 55-gallon drums, which are lifted to shore. More than 6,000 gallons of the oil mixture has been removed since 26 March. Milwee said:
We continue to find small amounts of scattered, fresh tar balls on the beaches near the stern, and we believe they are from oil that's been clinging to the pipes and sides of tanks ... Clean up crews will continue to pick up any recoverable oil from the beaches, and the crew on the stern will keep working to get as much of the mixture off as possible.
Clean up crews today worked on beaches in the vicinity of the stern, as well as beaches in the Bastendorf Beach and Winchester Bay areas. An inspection team of representatives of local, state and federal agencies as well as a representative of the ship's owners determined yesterday that the beaches between the Siltcoos River and Tahkenitch creek north of Coos Bay meet clean up criteria. This is in addition to about 75 per cent of the beaches from south of Coos Bay north to Newport, Oregon, including beaches in the Waldport area, that the team has determined no longer require regular clean up. The team will continue inspecting beaches in the Coos Bay area this week. All the beaches will be re-inspected this spring after winter storms that erode beaches are over.
18 April 1999 - The beached stern section of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa leaked oil for nearly two weeks this month, fouling more threatened snowy plovers and fuelling a dispute over how best to protect the birds. New pea-sized tar balls washed ashore near the stern in the first half of the month along a 15-mile stretch of beach. Jack Gallagher, the vessel operator's representative in Coos Bay, said cleanup workers found from one to ten of the balls per square yard. On 6 April a state wildlife expert reported as many as 25 of the balls per square yard just south of the stern. Gallagher said no fresh tar balls were reported Thursday or Friday of this week. Most of the tar balls smell like the heavy fuel oil used to power the vessel and not like the lube oil or diesel that crews have been pumping from the engine-room in recent weeks. The stern is listing 11 degrees and officials overseeing the salvage operation have not been able to pinpoint the leak. Crews have skimmed about 10,350 gallons of oil from the engine-room, roughly 9,000 gallons more than was thought to be there originally. Crews stopped pumping last Sunday and left absorbent material in the engine-room to soak up the excess. At least 13 newly-oiled plovers have been spotted since the New Carissa's bow section was sunk in international waters Mar 11, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife records. Three of the birds had been oiled earlier, cleaned up and released. Most of the oiling has been light and no dead plovers have been found. Fewer than 100 snowy plovers are known to breed in Oregon and most nest near where the vessel went aground 4 February. Agency records show that about 40 per cent have been affected by oil. Last month federal and state wildlife officials asked the Unified Command, made up of a coastguard officer, a representative from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the ship's owners, to monitor snowy plover nesting areas every other day. They also asked that the vessel's insurers hire three wildlife biologists to accompany cleanup workers. The Unified Command rejected that on 29 March, opting for weekly surveys and refusing to hire the wildlife biologists. State officials hired three biologists at $30 an hour to train cleanup crews. But they say they cannot afford to keep them and think the vessel's insurers should pay for them. Gallagher said the clean-up effort has gone beyond most of the spills of similar magnitude. The stern is likely to remain throughout the summer. Bids for removing it are to be opened on Monday.
21 April 1999 - While divers were exploring the stranded stern of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa yesterday, trying to reach 16 submerged tanks that still may contain some oil, US coastguard officials were planning ways to remove as much of the gooey tar as possible. Coastguard Lieutenant Commander Ed Parsons said in some cases, divers opened tanks to allow oil to float to the surface of the engine-room, where it can be recovered. The operation may continue for a week or so. The coastguard took over the recovery operations after representatives of Gallagher Marine Systems declared the 200ft stern a safety hazard and pulled its salvage workers from the wreck. Jack Gallagher, whose company represents the ship's owners and operators, said:
We just didn't want to keep doing things when we felt we were getting into an unsafe situation.
Gallagher Marine, which has removed more than 10,000 gallons of oil from the engine-room, pulled out last week when the coastguard asked the company to plan for the removal of oil believed to be in a tank at the bottom of the vessel. The order was suspended when Gallagher raised the safety issue. Parsons denied that anyone was working in unsafe conditions and said the coastguard is employing some of the same divers who worked for Gallagher. Although Parsons did not question Gallagher's concerns about safety, he said that it's likely the cost of the New Carissa pollution control effort has reached or exceeded the $22 million limit of legal liability under US law. That means that the vessel's owner, Green Atlas Shipping, and its British Insurer, Britannia Steamship Insurance, can pass on continued cleanup costs to a federal Oil Spill Liability Response fund. But Gallagher said the coastguard's decision to prolong operations may be an effort to protect the federal fund from being billed for the multi-million dollar job of removing the stern this summer. By week's end, Gallagher Marine Systems hopes to award a contract for the wreck removal, a process that will involve cutting up the stern and hauling it out of the surf by barge. If the coastguard can claim that the stern is no longer a pollution threat, Gallagher said, the wreck removal might not be classified as a "pollution response". In that case, he said, money from the federal fund would not cover the cost and the insurer would be liable. Gallagher said he will argue that the stern constitutes a pollution threat and that its removal should be paid for through the fund.
29 April 1999 - The end is in sight for crews trying to empty the oil from the stern of m wood chip carrier New Carissa. After the last of 16 underwater tanks in the wrecked vessel were opened, coastguard Lietenant Commander, Dawayne Penberthy, said yesterday:
There's probably no more than a couple of thousand gallons left.
Crews also began cutting off the top 14ft of the vessel's smokestack, which will make it easier for helicopters to touch down on the stern to transfer workers and equipment. Penberthy estimated that 3,000 gallons of oil have been removed from the 200ft stern section since the coastguard assumed responsibility for the oil removal ten days ago. Prior to that, contractors hired by a company representing the vessel's owner and insurer removed about 10,000 gallons. As divers have opened the underwater tanks, oil has bubbled to the surface of water in the engine-room. From there, floating "skimmers" have sucked up the oil and pumped it into containers on deck. Workers also have pumped out hundreds of gallons of oil through a hose placed directly into the largest source of underwater fuel in a starboard water ballast tank that collected oil oozing in from adjacent diesel and bunker fuel tanks that ruptured as waves pounded the hull. Once all underwater sources of oil have been drained, Penberthy said, crews will begin final cleanup work, such as pressure-washing oily bulkheads and engine equipment, recovering oil generated by that operation, and soaking up thin layers of oil on the water with absorbent material. Penberthy said.:
I guess that will take anywhere from ten days to three weeks.
7 May 1999 - A report from Coos Bay, Oregon, states: Clean-up work along the central and southern Oregon coast has intensified after a new wave of tar balls which may be from the grounded m wood-chip carrier New Carissa washed ashore, prompting renewed fears among commercial fishermen.
10 May 1999 - The Astoria-based m salvage vessel Salvage Chief may still get its shot at refloating and towing to sea part of m wood-chip carrier New Carissa, this time, the a portion of the stern, still stuck in the sand off Coos Bay. But state officials say they want assurances that any plans to scuttle part of the stern section at sea are the best environmental option. Fred Devine Diving & Salvage, the Portland company that operates the salvage vessel, won the job of dismantling the stern of New Carissa. Devine is considering then pulling its hull off the Coos Bay North Spit, representatives of the ship's insurer announced yesterday. The company will do the work in a joint venture with Donjon Marine Company that owns a quarter of Salvage Chief. The vessel could play a key role if salvors decide to re-float the bottom half of the stern section and dispose of it at sea. Referring to the vessel's bow section, Mick Leitz, president of Fred Devine, said:
Everybody said we should've done the last part ... The last part was the easy part. This is a toughie.
Leitz's company and his partner will remove the wreck by cutting it into pieces and taking them to a yet-undetermined port for scrapping and recycling. Leitz said he has not ruled out using Salvage Chief to refloat the bottom half of the stern. But Bill Milwee, a representative of the vessel's insurer, Britannia Steamship Insurance, said such an effort would need federal and state approval. Leitz and his partner beat out ten bidders, including Smit and Titan Maritime Industries Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, FL, whose representatives flew to Portland earlier this week for two days of intense negotiations with representatives from Britannia and the vessel's operator, TMM Co. Ltd. Richard Fairbanks, Titan's general manager, said the winners assumed a huge risk with a lump-sum contract. Fairbanks said:
In a lump sum, you're at the mercy of whatever happens ... They were braver than we were. The Oregon coast is a serious situation. We weren't willing to do as much financially as they were.
Milwee said he hoped the stern could be removed before autumn, when the coast's winter weather would make work more dangerous. But it could be a month before Donjon's equipment arrives in Coos Bay. The company will use a 200ft long lift-boat capable of working in 200ft of water and a crane with a lift capacity of 600 tons.
10 June 1999 - Salvors of m wood chip carrier New Carissa said 8 June that they hoped to patch up the vessel's stranded stern and sink it at sea with any residual oil - the same approach used with the oil-laden bow earlier this year. Bill Milwee, a salvage expert for Gallagher Marine Systems, which represents the ship-owner, said:
If the stern cannot be re-floated, the salvage crews will dismantle it completely and take the pieces away for scrapping and recycling ... On-site scrapping began on 1 June and by 8 June heavy-lift helicopters had removed 63t of metal and debris. If working conditions remain favourable, I expect the stern of the New Carissa to be gone by the end of October.
9 March 1999 - London, UK
In the latest round of the battle for compensation from the m tanker Sea Empress oil spill, Pembrokeshire County Council has filed a High Court claim for damages against the owners of the vessel. The west Wales council is seeking damages for the cost of the clean-up operation which followed the grounding of the Sea Empress on 15 February 1996, and the spilling of 72,000t of oil on to the Pembrokeshire coastline. The primary claim is against Alegrete Shipping Company. In addition to the council, Carmarthenshire Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, The Environment Agency, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and various individuals are involved in the claim. Additional claims are against the vessel's P&I club, Skuld, and the 1971 International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. According to Jose Maura of the IOPC Fund, the High Court action has only been taken as a means of protecting claims for compensation which would otherwise be time-barred three years after the incident took place. The IOPC Fund has so far disbursed over £4.5 million in interim payments relating to the spill from the vessel. Pembrokeshire County Council estimates it is still owed £500,000. Mr Maura said that the Sea Empress claim was "unlikely to continue in court" as the fund was maintaining "an open discussion" with claimants. It was clear, he said, that the expenses of the clean-up had been incurred but claims had "not been easy to handle" largely because of the sheer volume involved. In order to avoid claims being time-barred after three years, there were two options, he said. Either one could bring an action against the owner, P&I club and the IOPC Fund or an action against the owner and P&I club while notifying the fund. The claimants had chosen the first option. Milford Haven Port Authority is seeking leave to appeal against a £4 million fine imposed against it in relation to the spill. A decision on whether the authority has leave to appeal is expected in the next week or so. Lord Donaldson of Lymington's long awaited report on command and control of salvage operations, which is expected to comment on the Environment Agency's controversial use of the 1991 Water Resources Act in prosecuting the Milford Haven Port Authority, is now due out on Mar 15.
24 March 1999 - Milford Haven, Wales, UK
A summons has been issued against the French owners of m stern trawler Nohic (214gt, built 1967) after a collision in which 10t (10,000 litres) of Marked Marine gas oil was spilt into the Milford Haven waterway. The collision occurred late on Monday (22 March) night when the trawler was leaving Milford Docks. According to a spokeswoman for the Milford Haven Port Authority, the fishing vessel was not in the channel and collided with crane barge Samson which was correctly moored off an area locally known as Cunjic. A summons has been issued against the owners of the Nohic, which is operated by Societe d'Armement a la Peche Jego Quere et Compagnie, under section 1.31 of the Merchant Shipping Act. It is not yet known why the master of the trawler left the channel and the matter will be fully investigated, the spokeswoman said. In a statement, harbourmaster Captain Mark Andrews described the incident as unfortunate:
While the collision itself was not serious, the resultant pollution falls within the serious category. The response was quick and effective and the whole incident will now be the subject of an inquiry.
Following the collision the trawler returned to Milford Docks for examination and Samson, which is owned by the Milford Docks Company, was also brought into the docks with structural damage. The Environment Agency has been informed of the incident.
21 March 1999 - Manila, Philippines
Press reports, dated Manila today, state: Tanker Sea Brothers 1, carrying 420,000 litres (109,200 gallons) of bunker oil crashed into the breakwater in Manila Bay, capsized and sank, spilling most of her cargo, a coastguard spokesman said yesterday. Most of the seven crew members were injured in the accident late Friday, but none seriously, said coastguard Lieutenant, Joel Garcia. Garcia said the oil slick covered about 35 hectares of the bay with an estimated 320,000 litres (83,200 gallons) of oil that spilled when the tanker capsized. The tanker loaded the fuel from the Pilipinas Shell depot in Manila's Pandacan district and was on her way to supply vessels anchored in the bay when the accident happened, he said. Garcia said an investigation is underway. He said it would take about two weeks to clean the bay.
A Philippine-owned oil tanker sank off the coast of Manila Bay late Friday causing a massive oil spill covering 30 to 40 hectares of sea water surrounding Manila. The tanker, owned by Southwest Tanker Shipping Inc., carried 300 to 400t of crude oil bought from Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. Lieutenant Joel Garcia of the Philippine coastguard said yesterday the oil spill covers a distance of 1.5km. It is 15cm thick and 30m wide. Garcia said the tanker hit the foundation of a breakwater in Manila's South Harbour, ripping a hole on one side of the vessel. The tanker went down off Manila Bay and has yet to be recovered. Garcia said:
We have sent marine teams to contain the oil spill ... This morning we sprayed chemical dispersants.
The remaining crude oil which is too thick to evaporate will be sucked out of the water and stored for disposal later on. Oil control teams have also laid out blocks to prevent the spill from spreading to the rest of Manila Bay, Garcia added. Marine teams dispatched to the scene rescued seven crew members including the master. Garcia said the coastguard is set to issue a subpoena for the master for an investigation into the incident as well as into the seaworthiness of the vessel. He said the oil siphoned from the sea may be sent back to Shell for disposal. The clean-up is expected to take more than two weeks, Garcia said.
21 March 1999 - Following received from coastguard Manila, timed 23.50, UTC, 20 March: Tanker Sea Brothers 1, 381gt: coastguards are trying to clean up the spill at the moment. An underwater survey is being carried out to see if the oil remaining on the vessel can be removed. A salvor has attended.
21 March 1999 - Coastguard workers laid additional oil spill booms today to try to prevent a spill from sunken oil tanker Sea Brothers 1 in Manila Bay from an important tourist district, a Philippine official said. Sea Brothers 1, carrying nearly 110,000 gallons of oil, crashed into the breakwater in the bay, capsized and sank on Friday, spilling most of her cargo, coastguard Lieutenant Rommel Olarte said. Most of the seven crew members were injured in the accident, but none seriously, the goastguard said. The coastguard initially reported that the slick of 83,200 gallons of oil covered about 79 acres of the bay. It later reported the oil slick covered a much smaller area. Olarte said additional boom lines were being laid to prevent the oil from being carried by the tide to Manila's shoreline, about a mile away from the stick. Nearby is a tourist district where a popular park, the US Embassy and a row of restaurants and hotels, including the prestigious Manila Hotel, are located. The slick left ugly black smudges on one side of the concrete breakwater and on the hulls of barges and boats anchored there. Olarte said:
It will give off a foul smell and leave stains that are very hard to remove along a portion of Manila's shoreline.
Olarte said an investigation is underway, adding the company which operated the tanker will be required to shoulder the cost of the cleanup. He said it would take about two weeks to clean the bay.
23 March 1999 - Manila Bay's worst oil spill has been contained and salvage operations are being carried out to raise the stricken coastal tanker Sea Brothers 1, which sank and contaminated the harbour. South-western Shipping Corp, which owns the tanker, has posted an initial five million pesos (US$128,000) bond to defray initial expenses and has agreed to shoulder all expenses related to cleaning up the oil and salving the tanker. Malayan Towage and Salvage, which began salvage operations yesterday, said the vessel is in 40m of water, listing 30 degrees to port under a thick layer of mud. Philippine coastguard spokesman Lieutenant Rommel Olarte said that much of the oil had been contained along the breakwater outside the port's South Harbour terminal. Dispersants are being applied to the oil spill.
30 March 1999 - The Philippine coastguard has filed a criminal complaint against the owner and master of the tanker Sea Brothers 1, 390gt, which sank last week off Manila Bay, spilling 420,000 litres of oil. Southwest Tankers president Arben Santos and Captain Jose Maat, the master of the vessel, have been charged before the Justice Department for violation of Presidential Decree 600 of the Maritime Pollution Law. The two were indicted for refusing to put up the required initial cash bond of five million pesos (US$129,000) for clean-up operations by the coastguard. The PCG said the tanker owners paid only lm pesos. PCG divers who did an underwater survey said that the tanker was leaking oil from the manifold air vents a day after sinking.
26 April 1999 - Harbour operations have returned to normal following completion of the clean-up operation and recovery of tanker Sea Brothers 1. Captain Angel Penalosa, salvage master for Malayan Towage & Salvage Corp, said:
We were able to refloat and tow away the submerged tanker, posing a safety hazard to vessels entering the port of Manila's South Harbour terminal.
Malayan Towage, which handled the oil spill clean-up and salving the vessel, reported that the oil spill was not as big as earlier thought. Initial estimates of the oil spill placed it at about 300,000 litres of bunker fuel. The salvage company was, however, able to recover about 356,000 litres of fuel from the tanker which was carrying 420,000 litres when she sank. The oil which escaped into the bay was estimated at 64,000 litres.
1 April 1999 - Quebec, Canada
Pollution from a 23 March bunker spill at Havre St. Pierre, Quebec, has spread into a national park and contaminated more than 300 birds, even though responders have recovered most of the oil, reports Real Savard, scientific co-ordinator for planning and emergency response in Canada's Laurentian Region. Authorities now estimate that m bulk carrier Gordon C. Leitch spilled 14,400 gallons (49t) of heavy fuel oil when she punctured on a pier, Savard says. Crews of Eastern Canada Response Corporation have collected 12,000 gallons (41t) of oil and water, he says. Over the past week warm weather broke up an ice sheet that had contained some oil in the bay of Pointe-aux-Morts, Savard says. The oiled flows drifted into Mingan Islands National Park, where they contaminated sand and cobble beaches at the foot of cliffs on some of the islands, he says. Wildlife observers also report that 300 of the 3,000 birds in the area, mostly eiders and guillemots, are oiled, he adds. Workers captured 14 birds on Mar 31 and delivered them to a wildlife treatment centre set up in Havre St. Pierre by the Canadian Wildlife Association, Savard says. Clean-up costs so far have run to $860,700 and may exceed $1.65 million, according to Savard.
8 April 1999 - About 80 shoreline cleaners are tediously scrubbing more than 3km of rocky coast in Quebec removing bunker oil spilled by the m bulk carrier Gordon C. Leitch on 23 March at Havre St. Pierre, Quebec. The contamination spread to five islands in a Canadian national park in late March. Crews completed oil recovery last week, but cleaning could take at least two more weeks, says Martin Blouin, supervisor of response for the Canadian coastguard Laurentian region. Workers are dousing the rocks with buckets of Corexit 9580, waiting 20 minutes, scrubbing with a deck brush, and wiping down the rock with rags, he says. They are removing oiled vegetation and the occasional oiled, loose stone, he says. Canadian government scientific advisors approved the procedure and are monitoring the work, he says. Officials gave first priority to recreational beaches and to shore-line on which Quebec's indigenous Montagais people would soon conduct a traditional spring goose hunt. Most shoreline oiling was in the bay of Pointe-aux-Morts, but oiled ice from the bay floated onto five islands in Mingan Islands National Park, where it melted and left patches of oil, he says. Crews recovered most of the spilled oil "because it was thick as molasses, and it stuck to the rocks, even as the tide went in and out", Blouin says. Nonetheless, wildlife observers report 900 oiled birds in the area, mostly eider and guillemots, Blouin says. Officials have captured 689 birds, he says. Of those, 181 remain in the care of 60 workers at a wildlife treatment centre in Havre St. Pierre; one was released, and 508 died or were euthanised, he says. The responsible party is paying for the response, which still included more than 150 people as of 7 April, Blouin says.
7 April 1999 - Zhuhai, China
Reports have emerged from China that a Cosco-owned bulker was in collision with a government-owned tanker in Zhuhai waters near Hong Kong on 24 March, resulting in a ten-ton fuel oil spill. M ore carrier Dong Hai (17,402gt, built 1965) was reported to have hit m tanker Min Ran Gong 7 (17,487gt, built 1970) which was loaded with 1,000 tons of fuel oil, leading to the spill. Local sources state that the accident has led to a "serious pollution problem" resulting in "tons of dead fish". The accident is under investigation by Chinese authorities.
8 April 1999 - A slick has spread over more than 120 square miles of the South China Sea after a tanker (Min Ran Gong 7) collided with a cargo ship, (m ore carrier Dong Hai) spilling 150t of fuel oil, a local official said today. The tanker had collided with a 3,000t cargo off Zhuhai in the southern province of Guangdong, said the official of the Zhuhai Environmental Protection Bureau. He said both vessels were Chinese and that the tanker had been fully loaded, while the cargo ship was nearly empty when the collision happened on 24 March. He said:
Only 150t of fuel oil was leaked, because we took immediate measures to transfer the rest of fuel oil to other ships ... We have almost controlled the pollution ... We are trying all means to the reduce the losses to the minimum level.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that more than 640 acres of fish farms had been polluted, causing direct economic losses of one million yuan ($120,000).
12 April 1999 - Honolulu
Mfv Van Loi, official No. 917343 (176gt, built 1987) ran aground Kauai Island yesterday. Vessel is still aground. All crew have been taken off. At the moment efforts are being made to remove fuel on board.
12 April 1999 - Mfv Van Loi grounded off Waipouli, Kauai, lat. 22 03.44N, long. 159 74W, about 04.20, HST, 10 Apr. US coastguard crews were able to get pumps on board the vessel early morning of 10 April and she floated free for a short time before incoming water overtook pumps and she grounded again. The six crew were rescued and vessel remains hard aground being battered by 10-12ft waves. Reported that there are 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board and due to pollution crews the incident has been federalised by the coastguard. Crews are standing by, awaiting opportunity to place hoses on board to pump off remaining diesel and salvage plans are being devised.
13 April 1999 - Mfv Van Loi which grounded on a reef off Kauai's east coast broke up in heavy surf today, spilling about 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel into waters with endangered species. The coastguard said the pilot-house of the 95ft vessel separated from the main deck after a pounding by strong winds and waves of up to 12ft. Coastguard Lieutenant, Danny LeBlanc, said:
We haven't found any evidence of standing diesel fuel on any beaches or in wave pools around here.
Debris such as fishing equipment, floats, lumber, insulating foam and fishing nets have washed ashore, smelling of fuel. The vessel's cargo of fish also spilled into the ocean. The Honolulu-based vessel grounded Saturday (Apr 10) morning on the reef just off shore and began taking on water. Her six Vietnamese crewmen were evacuated.
14 April 1999 - Visitors in several hotels complained of nausea from the fumes after grounded mfv Van Loi broke up off the east coast of Kauai, spilling 16,000 gallons of diesel fuel into waters inhabited by endangered seals and sea turtles. Diesel leaking from the vessel left a sheen on seawater and popular tourist beaches, observers said. The Honolulu-based Van Loi ran aground early Saturday (10 April). Coastguard officials believe she gradually leaked the diesel oil since then and they warned beach-goers to avoid the area. Beaches on the east coast of Kauai were closed today to protect swimmers from the 30,000ft of fishing line in the area with about 1,000 large hooks. Debris such as fishing equipment, floats, lumber, insulating foam and fishing nets have washed ashore, smelling of fuel. A representative from the Pono Kai Resort, Kauai, just north of where the spill occurred, said the beaches would most likely be re-opened by tomorrow. Kauai's waters are inhabited by endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles. The seals are the second-most endangered mammal in American waters after the northern white whale. About 1,300 seals remain in the world. Honolulu's US Coast Guard spokesman, David Santos, said:
At this point there are no reports of marine life impacted from the spill so we think most of the fuel escaped from the vessel and wreckage over time.
However, he said there was concern over possible damage to wildlife. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said the coral reef along the affected beach could be the biggest victim of the vessel's grounding. Spokeswoman, Aulani Wilhelm, said:
We're concerned over damage to the coral from the vessel's grounding.
Coraline algae serves as a food source for the near shore ecosystem.
23 April 1999 - The owner of the grounded mfv Van Loi has been told he has 72 hours to come up with a plan to remove the wreckage from Kapaa Reef or the state will do it and send him the bill. Howard Gehring, head of the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, said a letter went out yesterday to Vincent Nguyen of Honolulu, owner of the vessel that went aground 10 April. Gehring said Nguyet did not respond to a demand letter that was issued the day of the grounding. With the beach clean-up nearly complete, the US coastguard is finishing its involvement. The coastguard report on the grounding is expected in about three weeks. The state Health Department or Saturday reopened four miles of beaches on east Kauai that had been closed due to the spill of 16,000 gallons of diesel feul. An assessment last week by the state Division of Aquatics concluded little harm was done to fish or marine invertebrates by the fuel spill. But the vessel tore out a large section of reef when she was blown ashore by heavy trade-winds after her engine-room flooded. Van Loi broke up in the surf at midweek and the remaining pieces continue to grind or the reef. The Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation is responsible for dealing with what remains of the vessel. Gehring said yesterday that if Nguyen does not come up with an acceptable plan, the state will have to remove the wreckage. Private contractors have submitted proposals, he said.
20 April 1999 - Hanoi, Vietnam
About 110,000 litres of diesel oil was spilled after two tankers collided near southern Ho Chi Minh City, an official said today. M tanker Nhat Thuan (879gt, built 1973), carrying 520,000 litres of diesel struck tanker Hiep Hoa 2, which was carrying 438,000 litres of diesel, the official Vietnam News daily reported today. The crew of Hiep Hoa 2 tried to plug a 1.3m gash in her side but were unable to contain the leak, it added. The official, from the city's environment department, said clean-up operations were underway after the accident Friday (17 April) night 500m from the Nha Be Petroleum Storage Depot. He said:
About 110,000 litres of diesel oil has spilled into the Nha Be river, and strong currents have quickly spread the oil.
More time was needed to assess the spill's full environmental impact but he thought it would not be serious. The paper quoted officials as saying the diesel oil had polluted land and mangrove forests in the area and that marine animals and wildlife were threatened.
12 May 1999 - Unimak Island, USA
The master of Bering Sea mfv Controller Bay (194gt, built 1989) fell asleep at the helm and woke up when his vessel crashed onto the rocks of Unimak Island, the US coastguard said yesterday. Controller Bay went aground early Saturday (8 May) at Cave Point and was still leaking fuel yesterday, the agency said. The coastguard said the four-member crew of the 78ft Controller Bay was rescued by fv Shaman. By yesterday evening Controller Bay had dipped bow down a few hundred yards offshore, said the coastguard. The vessel was in danger of breaking up on the rocks and could not be easily reached, said Leslie Pearson, an oil spill response technician for the DEC. "She's in an area where it's close to impossible to surround her with oil-catching booms", Pearson said. When she grounded, Controller Bay carried some 8,000 gallons of diesel, lubricating and hydraulic oils. "I imagine they're going to lose all of that", said Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Plowman in Unalaska. He said a petroleum slick about two miles long and 50 yards wide was washing up on shore. He said:
The master of Controller Bay admitted falling asleep at the wheel with the vessel on auto-pilot.
The master, Brent Peterson, 29, had activated his helm alarm so it would ring every ten minutes, but he turned it off, Plowman said. He said:
It was bothering him ... He awoke when the vessel hit the rocks.
The master and his three crewmen are all Americans and likely had returned to the Lower 48 by yesterday, he said. The vessel's owner is Richard Miller of Edmonds, Wash, said Plowman. The crew had been pot-fishing for cod and "working for many many hours without sleep", he said. The coastguard was investigating the grounding.
12 May 1999 - Mfv Controller Bay: Understand vessel broke up on rocks and has now sunk.
9 June 1999 - Hong Kong
An oil barge spilled up to 10,000 litres of light diesel after sinking in high waves caused by Typhoon "Maggie" at the Tuen Mun Ferry Terminal yesterday. The spill spread across a 100-square-metre area, forcing nearby Butterfly Beach to be closed. The Marine Department, which mounted a day-long operation to clean up the diesel, said the spill was contained but Hongkong Ferry (Holdings), which chartered the barge, would be asked to pay the bill. Adding that the department was still working out the bill, a spokesman said:
If they chartered the barge, they are responsible even if they are not the direct owner.
The Environmental Protection Department could lay charges if investigations reveal the spill was caused by negligence. Hongkong Ferry officials would not disclose the name of the barge's owner. The 17m, 46t barge had four compartments carrying a total of 50,000 litres of diesel with the leak coming from a single one containing 10,000 litres. Hongkong Ferry (Holdings) chartered the barge to refuel client vessels, including Shun Tak ferries operating between Tuen Mun and Central, but not those under its sister company, Hongkong & Yaumati Ferry. The company was salvaging the barge last night. Seven marine department vessels were sent to clean the spill. A 200m boom was laid west of the pier and a giant propeller used to evaporate the diesel. Pumps were also used to extract oil trapped under the pier.
9 June 1999 - Yowaka River, New South Wales, Australia
A press report from Sydney, dated today, states: A tanker lorry crashed and burst into flames yesterday, spilling 38,000 litres of fuel into a southern New South Wales river, which threatened nearby oyster beds and sparked a major clean-up. The tanker driver escaped serious injury after kicking out the windscreen and crawling from his overturned vehicle as it burst into flames on a bridge. The fire began at 07.30 hours when the tanker, carrying diesel, unleaded and super petrol, crashed on Yowaka Bridge on the Princess Highway, Pambula, spilling more than 38,000 litres into the Yowaka River. Fire crews from Eden, Bega, Merimbula and Queanbeyan extinguished the blaze almost two hours later. Police said the driver from Bega was taken to hospital with cuts and minor burns to his hands and face while around 40 emergency services workers tried to douse the flames. The NSW fire brigade said oyster beds more than 1km downstream from the spill were saved from damage by the outgoing tide and efforts to contain the fire. The Fisheries Department was monitoring the spill. Large containment booms were placed by crews, together with the ports authority, to confine the spill to less than 1.5km. The fire brigade said the booms would remain in place overnight and it would resume mop-up operations today. Traffic was diverted from the area while RTA engineers inspected the damage to the bridge. Merimbula police sergeant Colonel Bell said the concrete supports beneath the bridge had cracked from the heat of the fire. An RTA spokesman said one lane was reopened to traffic at 16.20 hours but the other would remain closed until the engineers had completed their assessment of the damage. Police were investigating the cause of the accident.