Coast Guard detains cargo ship in Valdez


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A foreign cargo ship has been ordered by the Coast Guard to remain in Valdez until it deals with containers leaking oil onto the vessel.

The Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/15B2GFK ) reports the Coast Guard also wants to determine the chemical composition of oil leaked onto the BBC Arizona.

Coast Guard Lt. Allie Ferko said Tuesday the containers are carrying transformer oil, a highly refined mineral oil, used for cooling and insulating transformers.

The 454-foot BBC Arizona, operated by BBC Chartering and Logistics, departed Qinhuangdao, China, and reached Valdez on May 28 with a load of steel I-beams for the southcentral Alaska city.

The beams had been welded to the deck for stability during transit. When a crew member used a cutting torch to free the beams, sparks ignited sawdust that was spread around to soak up leaked oil, Ferko said.

"It was a small fire, easily contained," Ferko said. The crew extinguished the fire but also summoned the Valdez Fire Department.

"Of course, anytime there is a fire aboard a ship, the Coast Guard is going to investigate, and that's when we discovered that it was leaking," Ferko said.

No cargo can be lifted off until the problem is resolved.

The ship's owner hired oil spill response company Emerald Services Inc. and response crews used pads to soak up leaked oil. At least 3,000 gallons of oily water had been vacuumed from the deck. Crews placed booms around the ship but no oily water has been detected in the port.

Emerald Services estimated that 16 metal containers held plastic bladders containing transformer oil. Each bladder could hold about 6,000 gallons. Not all leaked.

Lab results indicated the samples contained no PCBs, a substance banned for use in U.S. transformer in 1979.

Contractors were determining how to stem the leaks.

The vessel's flag state is Antigua and Barbuda. The Coast Guard issued the vessel a notice of discrepancy for failing to report the leaky containers. The notice must be resolved in the vessel's flag state.

The ship will stay in Valdez until leaks are repaired and the ship is cleaned up.

"Once the captain of the port is satisfied that all of those conditions are met, then they will be authorized to depart," Ferko said.

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