From: Dan Joling, Associated Press
Published January 6, 2005 12:00 AM

First Oil Removed from Broken Freighter off Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Salvagers have begun removing oil from tanks on a freighter that broke apart last month off Alaska, spilling most of the vessel's estimated 442,000 gallons of fuel into the Bering Sea and onto shore.


A salvage team Monday used a heavy-lift helicopter to remove three steel "retrieving cubes" loaded with diesel from the stern of the Selendang Ayu. The 738-foot freighter ran aground and split in two Dec. 8 off Unalaska Island in the Aleutian chain.


Cleanup crews on the island have collected more than 2,660 bags of oily waste so far. More than 600 oiled birds have been observed and 22 live birds captured for rehabilitation.


The freighter, loaded with soybeans on a voyage from Tacoma, Wash., to China, was carrying an estimated 424,000 gallons of heavy intermediate fuel oil and 18,000 gallons of diesel.


Three tanks holding about 358,000 gallons were breached and emptied in the days immediately following the grounding, leaving an estimated 84,000 gallons aboard to be removed.


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Savage weather typical of the Bering Sea has hampered salvage plans. Winds and waves subsided enough Monday to allow the first oil to be pumped into the cubes -- steel boxes approximately 7 feet square -- and lifted off with a sling.


About 3,075 gallons of fuel and water were recovered Monday, said Len Marcus, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.


Marcus said rough seas prevented further oil removal Tuesday, but crews plan to continue the effort Wednesday, weather permitting.


The helicopter transported the cubes to the port of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island. Cubes will be emptied there and shuttled back to the Selendang Ayu, said a Coast Guard spokesman, Petty Officer Thomas McKenzie.


The Selendang Ayu's troubles began when its crew shut down the main engine to do repair work. The Malaysia-flagged vessel drifted for nearly two days before running aground. Its owner, Singapore-based IMC Group, is responsible for salvage and cleanup costs.


Source: Associated Press


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