Ship crash at port topples crane

No one injured

spill of diesel fuel contained

July 28, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A cargo ship slammed into a berth at Dundalk Marine Terminal on Friday night, toppling a 750-ton crane and spilling diesel fuel on the edge of the Patapsco River.

No one was hurt in the accident, and most of the 450-gallon fuel spill was contained before it reached the river, officials said yesterday. Environmental crews were monitoring the water.

The 162-foot crane crumpled to the ground about 8:40 p.m., when the Star Hosanger - loaded with 34,000 tons of wood pulp and lumber - struck berth No. 7 bow-first, said Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The crane, owned by the Maryland Port Administration, could cost $6 million to $8 million to replace, officials said.

Inbound from Brazil, the 653-foot ship had cruised under the Key Bridge and was aiming for berth No. 3, about a quarter-mile upstream, when it apparently experienced problems with its propulsion system and hit No. 7, said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Mark E. Hammond. The incident remains under investigation by the Coast Guard.

No workers or cargo were in the berth at the time. Had the berth been active that night, as many as 80 people would have been in the area, at least one on the crane itself, transportation officials said. A shipment of new Toyotas sat in that spot days earlier.

"The silver lining of this incident is the fact that area was pretty much empty," Cahalan said.

The crane is one of 27 at the port of Baltimore, which handles about 30 million tons of cargo a year. The loss of the machine - used to handle that cargo - will force workers to juggle loading and unloading schedules, but it is not expected to hurt business at the port, officials said.

The port administration will decide whether to replace it, said Gene Bailey, the agency's deputy executive director. The administration also intends to seek reimbursement from the shipping company for the crane damage and the cost of the fuel cleanup, which officials said they could not estimate yesterday.

The Maryland Department of the Environment hired a private contractor, A&A Environmental of Baltimore, to clean up the spill. Under the supervision of MDE, A&A workers sopped up the fuel on the concrete berth. They also pumped out a storm drain and the crane's fuel tank.

The Star Hosanger is owned by Star Shipping line of Bergen, Norway. Its 22-member crew hails from the Philippines. The ship's bow was crumpled, but the vessel was still afloat, docked at No. 3, where workers were unloading its cargo. The ship is expected to stay in the area for repairs before heading to its next port of call, Savannah, Ga.

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