Coast Guard Responds to Florida Oil Spill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Federal, state and local agencies are working to minimize impact of an oil spill from an 396-foot container ship on the Amelia River, Fla., at the Nassau Terminal in Fernandina, Fla.

The Seaboard Rio Haina was loading containers on to its deck Friday at about 6 p.m. while it was adjusting its ballast to keep the vessel properly trimmed.  One of the ballast tanks overflowed spilling water and an unknown amount of fuel oil on to the deck of the ship and into the river. The spill was not caused as a result of a puncture to its hull.

Terminal personnel immediately placed boom around the ship and the terminal to attempt to contain the pollution. Personnel from Nassau Terminal notified the Coast Guard of the spill at 9 p.m. Coast Guard pollution investigators and a port state control inspector were at the scene of the spill in approximately 40 minutes assessing the situation. Because the spill occurred at night, the investigators were unable to determine how much, if any, oil had entered the water.

Coast Guard and Florida Department Environmental Protection officials conducted extensive searches throughout the day of the Amelia River and surrounding waterways with Coast Guard small boats and aircraft. Members of the Nassau County Emergency Management and Fernandina Beach Fire Rescue conducted shoreline assessments and found no areas with significant pollution impact.

A small area of oil was found in the vicinity of Rayonier Reach in the Amelia River.  The oil, along with several other small sheens in that area were quickly recovered by Jacksonville Pollution Control.  There have been no other sightings or reports of oil in the water.  Jacksonville Pollution Control also cleaned all of the oil from the decks of the ship and placed containment boom around it in case any other oil leaks into the water.

Coast Guard inspectors continue to investigate the exact cause of the spill.  The Seaboard Rio Haina has been ordered to stay in port until the investigation is finished and any required remedial action is completed.  Cargo operations were permitted to resume but only to gain access to the ballast and fuel tanks of interest to the investigation.

Coast Guard pollution investigators have conducted numerous soundings of the ship’s tanks, and an estimated 700- to-800 gallons of oil are unaccounted for.  About 200 gallons of oil was recovered from the deck of the ship so far.  It is unknown how much has entered the water.  These numbers are estimates and may change as assessment and investigation efforts continue.

The Seaboard Rio Haina has been ordered to stay in port and cease all cargo operations until the exact cause of the spill has been determined including why there was oil in the ballast tank. Coast Guard port state control inspectors are investigating the exact cause of the spill.

The public is urged to report any pollution and environmental impact in the Fernandina area to the Coast Guard National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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