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Listing barge dumps scrap cars into Commencement Bay, crews work to stabilize vessel

Post by Alexis Krell / The News Tribune on Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
February 24, 2013 10:29 pm

 

Emergency responders talk boat-to-boat next to a listing barge laden with scrap car hulks anchored near the northern shore of Commencement Bay, Tacoma, February 24, 2013.  It has been reported that some of the crushed cars fell into the water.
Emergency responders talk boat-to-boat next to a listing barge laden with scrap car hulks anchored near the northern shore of Commencement Bay, Tacoma, February 24, 2013. It has been reported that some of the crushed cars fell into the water. Peter Haley/Staff photographer

A Canadian barge listing along Marine View Drive on Sunday appeared to dump some of the scrap metal cars it was carrying into the water near Browns Point as crews tried to stabilize it, according to the state Department of Ecology.

The vessel was reported as listing Sunday morning, at which point the company expecting the metal hired a private group to salvage the barge, DOE specialist Ron Holcomb said.

Holcomb said he believed the owner of the barge had been contracted to deliver the cars to metal recycler Schnitzer Steel’s location along the Hylebos Waterway.

A News Tribune call to Schnitzer Steel’s government affairs official was not returned Sunday.

“The fear is the whole thing could capsize,” Holcomb said. “The priority right now is the stabilization of the vessel.”

The barge did not appear to be taking on water anymore as of Sunday night, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn said. He said Coast Guard officials would monitor the vessel overnight.

The roughly 250-foot barge is owned by Amix Marine Services, Littlejohn said.

He didn’t know whether the vessel was headed to or coming from Canada.

Holcomb said the cars reportedly slid off the barge as the private crews from Global Diving & Salvage pumped water out of a crack in the hull and patched the damage to the vessel. A slight oil sheen was visible around the boat after, he said. It’s not clear how many cars the barge lost.

An oil boom was set up, but some appeared to get past, Holcomb said, because the cars fell over the containment line or slid off before the boom was established, he believed.

The fuel that did make it into the water wasn’t a significant amount, he said, because such cars are transported with empty tanks. While any oil leaked is “technically a violation of Washington state law,” he said the amount around the barge shouldn’t hurt the nearby sea lions, which barked as crews worked.

Holcomb said the DOE is investigating the listing and that enforcement by the state, including civil penalties, is possible, pending the results.

Crews will continue stabilizing the barge Monday until it’s safe to tow, he said.

The Coast Guard said Amix Marine Services had authorized Global Diving & Salvage to continue with the cleanup.

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