Ship's oil-tank area called 'fairly stable' Toxicity fear halts spraying of slick

January 10, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SUMBURGH HEAD, Shetland Islands -- Despite worsenin weather and rough seas, salvage officials said yesterday that they were fairly optimistic that the remaining intact oil-storage tanks on board the grounded tanker Braer would not rupture and spill the rest of the cargo into the sea.

Although the stern area of the ship was showing signs of breaking off in the pounding surf, a visual inspection of the wreck from the land and sea suggested that the rest of the ship was "fairly stable" on a sandy sea bottom close to shore, they said.

"Of course, there are no guarantees, but we are fairly optimistic she will remain intact," said Geert Koffeman of the Dutch company Smit Tak, which is handling the salvage operation. Mr. Koffeman was referring to the forward part of the ship, which contains the 12 oil storage tanks.

Mr. Koffeman said he thought that most of the tanks might still be intact. He repeated earlier estimates that at least half of the Braer's 26-million-gallon cargo was still on board, four days after the ship ran aground off these bleak Scottish islands.

As poor weather once again hampered efforts to clean up vast oil slicks spreading along the islands' southern tip, some residents raised questions about efforts to disperse the slicks.

As a result of protests and complaints from local people worried about the possible toxic effects of a chemical detergent being used to disperse the oil, local officials said yesterday they were halting airborne operations while they reviewed spraying procedures.

Malcolm Green, who ordered the review as the head of the local Shetland Islands Council, said, "I want to be convinced that if it is toxic, the method in which it is sprayed is as safe as can be."

At a meeting Friday night, some 70 residents of the island's southern tip met with local officials to complain that chemicals from the aircraft had drifted over their homes and property.

With bad weather closing in again, the six aircraft equipped with spraying equipment could accomplish little in the next two days, anyway, conceded David Bedborough of the Marine Pollution Control Unit, which is overseeing the cleanup.

Late yesterday, the planes -- World War II-era DC-3s -- flew back to the mainland to await the next break in the weather.

High waves and winds gusting up to 60 mph are expected for the islands today and early tomorrow.

The worst of the pollution remained within the Bay of Quendale, where the ship ran aground. The leaking oil has blackened part of the harbor, where workers have recovered most of the dead or injured oil-covered birds.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.