Oil From Grounded Tanker Hits Oahu Beaches

From Associated Press

A tanker carrying 3.7 million gallons of crude oil ran aground in stormy seas off Hawaii, spilling about 117,000 gallons of fuel oil and crude, officials said Friday.

Some of the oil that spilled from the 800-foot tanker washed ashore along a one- to two-mile stretch of beach at Barbers Point on Oahu’s southwest coast, Coast Guard Lt. Brad Nelson said.

A fleet of tugboats and salvage ships worked in rough seas and gusty wind to refloat the tanker, the Exxon Houston, which ran aground Thursday evening.

Some of the oil washed up on a beach where a popular tourist luau is held--causing the state Department of Health to post “Polluted Waters” signs--and at areas as far as two miles to the north, Coast Guard spokesman Dennis Hubbard said.


Helicopter crews determined that the oil slick was not edging toward Honolulu, 15 miles away, Coast Guard spokesman David Santos said.

The ship’s 23 crew members were not injured and remained aboard, said Leonard Alcantara, Honolulu attorney for Exxon Co. USA.

The Coast Guard’s Pacific Area Strike Team was on its way from the West Coast with equipment to clean up the spill, Nelson said.

A local oil spill cleanup cooperative, called the Clean Islands Council, was activated and on the scene, said Lee Rogers, spokesman for Exxon Co. USA, the Houston-based domestic oil and gas division of Exxon Corp.


“We do know that one of the ship’s fuel tanks and at least one of the empty cargo tanks have been breached,” Rogers said.

Elsewhere, an oil slick was spotted Friday off sensitive marine reserves in the northern Florida Keys, but Coast Guard officials said the two-mile spill did not appear to be a threat to the area’s popular reefs.

The slick, of unknown origin, was 10 to 12 miles off the north Key Largo coast Friday afternoon, Coast Guard spokesman Joe Dye said.

Officials of parks in the area reported small gobs of tar washing up but said there did not appear to be major damage. Dye said a few dead birds were found near the oil, but it was not clear if they were killed by the slick.

“We have no idea where it came from,” he said. “There are apparently no ships in the area.”