Hairline hull crack found in oil tanker

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE - A 3 1/2-inch crack was discovered early Monday in an Exxon tanker departing from Valdez, creating a sheen and forcing the ship back to the dock, state officials said.

Less than a gallon of oil escaped, said John Brown with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Containment booms were immediately laid around the 987-foot tanker SeaRiver Long Beach, and the Solomon Gulch fish hatchery less than a mile east, Brown said.

By Monday evening, divers had found the crack and the tanker was preparing to pump some of its load onto another tanker, the BP-chartered Marine Columbia, he said. The crack was found at the midsection of the ship's single hull and opened to an oil tank, Brown said. The steel hull is less than an inch thick.

``It's a hairline crack. You can just barely see it,'' he said. ``The droplets coming out are about the size of a pinhead.''

The ship is owned and operated by SeaRiver Maritime Inc., Exxon's tanker subsidiary. It was attempting to leave Valdez with a total cargo of 59 million gallons of oil.

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