Grounded cargo ship lightering operations underway

BALTIMORE – Lightering operations started Sunday aboard the 800-foot bulk carrier CSL Argosy which is aground in Chesapeake Bay in the lower Craig Hill Channel just north of Annapolis, Md.

The ship, with a pilot aboard, was inbound to Baltimore with a cargo of iron ore when it ran aground.

Approximately 20,000 metric tons of Argosy’s cargo, iron ore, is being removed in order to “lighten” the ship and refloat it.

A little over 8,000 metric tons of iron ore were transferred from the Argosy to a barge Sunday. A second barge will begin transferring the remaining amount of iron ore from the ship today.

“VShips, the operator of the CSL Argosy, is most appreciative of all the hard work by the Coast Guard, State of Maryland and all the response personnel helping with our grounded vessel,” said David Burke, Managing Director VShips Boston. “While we work to remove our grounded ship, our number one concern is the safety of all the people involved. There have been no injuries and there has been no pollution and we are all striving to keep it that way.”

As a precautionary measure, oil spill recovery equipment has been placed on stand-by should it be needed.

The Unified Command is supervising the efforts until the vessel is successfully refloated. The CSL Argosy is not obstructing the channel, nor impeding vessel traffic.

The Coast Guard has established a temporary safety zone in certain waters of the Chesapeake Bay, within a 500-yard radius of the Argosy located in position latitude 39° 04′ 27″ N longitude 076° 23′ 46″ W. This safety zone is necessary to provide for the safety of life, property and the environment. This safety zone restricts the movement of vessels in a portion of the Chesapeake Bay, in order to facilitate damage assessment and salvage of the grounded ship. This rule is effective until 4 p.m. on Jan. 23, 2009.

Upon completion of lightering operations and re-floating, the vessel will proceed to a safe anchorage to undertake a dive survey with Class attendance.

The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

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