November 27, 2004

Tanker Spills Oil in Delaware River

PHILADELPHIA - A tanker spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, Coast Guard officials said Saturday.

Private contractors were called in to skim oil from the surface of the water and place thousands of feet of boom to contain the floating slick.

A stretch of less than 10 miles of the busy river was closed to commercial and recreational traffic while the spill was being cleaned up.

"I would classify any spill in the water as significant," said Coast Guard Petty Officer John Edwards. "We're working very quickly and diligently to expedite the cleanup."

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the spill, Edwards said. He said the leak had stopped by late Saturday morning.

The tanker, the Athos I, registered in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, was carrying 325,000 barrels of oil from Venezuela when it began leaking Friday night, said Jim Lawrence, a spokesman for the vessel's owner, Greek shipping company Tsakos Shipping and Trading SA. The crew notified the Coast Guard and began transferring oil from the leaking tank to another tank on board, he said.

The nearly 750-foot-long ship, built in 1983, was last out of the water for maintenance in April, Lawrence said. He said it had never before spilled oil.

The tanker was seen listing about 300 yards from its destination, a Citgo refinery in Paulsboro, N.J.