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Tanker carrying oil runs aground in East Rockaway Inlet

Friday, November 10, 2006

A tanker carrying home heating oil ran aground in the East Rockaway Inlet overnight.

Authorities say the 281-foot Kristin Poling ran aground in the inlet at around midnight.

They say the tanker was full with nearly 700,000 gallaons of home heating oil, but indicated there was no immediate danger of a leak.

No injuries were reported in the mishap.

The Coast Guard was hoping the high tide will take it back out to sea, but that effort was unsuccessful.

Response teams are now preparing to offload the oil. They say that will cause the ship to lift up off the bottom and float off with the next high tide.

They have been concerned all day with the threat of a spill, which they say is enormous. And with so much oil on board, the potential damage could be catastophic.

"It's in the largest areas of tidal wetlands in south Nassau County, actually located right outside Rockaway Inlet, and that's exactly where this barge is located," said Chuck Hamilton, of the state Department of Conservation.

"He took it into acres and acres marsh in the back part of this bay," Coast Guard Commander Robert McKenna said. "So it's important that we block that off."

The Kristin Poling, owned by Poling & Cutler Marine Transport in Englishtown, reportedly has a history of running around.

Coast Guard officials said the tanker has run aground in the East Rockaway Inlet three times in the past four years.

And the same tanker ran around in Newark Bay in October 2004. The tanker freed itself three hours later as the tide rose in that instance.

Officals say part of the reason the tanker frequently runs aground is because the East Rockaway Inlet has experienced significant shoaling over the years, causing the channel to shift towards the west.

Experts say the shoaling in this area has reduced depths to a point where transit for vessels drawing greater than five feet presents a danger of grounding, and the potential for a significant oil spill.

Officials say the Kristin Poling frequently travels to the Sprague Energy Oceanside terminal, a home heating oil distributor located in Oceanside. The company is a major supplier of home heating oil for western Long Island.

Although the vessel appeared to be stranded outside the channel, Coast Guard officials say it is too early to blame the crew for a navigational error.

"We need to look at the circumstances of exactly where they were," Coast Guard Commander Robert McKenna said. "We have to look at the ship's logs and some records to determine where they were when they ran aground. Obviously, after they first touched bottom, they may have moved."

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