Coal removed from carrier grounded in the bay

March 05, 2007|By Nicole Fuller

A private contractor, assisted by state and federal officials, began removing coal yesterday afternoon from the grounded ship M.V. Montrose, in hopes of freeing the vessel that has been stuck in shallow waters in the Chesapeake Bay since last week, Coast Guard officials said.

Two large barges - one to hold a crane and the other to accommodate the transferred coal - were brought yesterday morning into the mouth of the Choptank River where the commercial bulk carrier ran aground Wednesday. Officials hope that by lightening the load of coal, the Liberian-flag Montrose will be easier to refloat.

The process of removing some of the 74,215 metric tons of coal from the 712-foot ship began about 3 p.m. - at 7,000 tons per crane load - and was expected to take up to 36 hours.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday about efforts to free a ship loaded with coal that ran aground in the Chesapeake Bay incorrectly stated the rate at which the coal was to be removed by a crane operator. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the amount is seven tons per load. THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

Wind gusts up to 28 knots yesterday caused "pretty rough" conditions, and officials will continue to monitor weather forecasts to ensure the safety of the crew and to offset any possible spills, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Kendrick.

As the coal is removed, the ship's ballast tanks are filled with seawater to offset the weight transfer. Once enough coal to refloat the ship has been removed, the tanks will be emptied, the Coast Guard said.

Officials, saying that dust from the coal could pollute the waters, set up tarps between the barges and the Montrose to reduce spillage.

Resolve Marine Group of Port Everglades, Fla., is working with the Coast Guard, the state Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of the Environment to free the ship.

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