Oil leaks into river through a scupper pipe

A Greek tanker company may redesign scupper pipes on some ships after one of its vessels spilled at least 2,300 gallons of bunker fuel into the Delaware River.

The fuel leaked from the tanker Tigani at about 1050 on Oct. 10 while the vessel was moored at a Citgo asphalt refinery in Paulsboro, N.J.

The Coast Guard said No. 6 bunker fuel escaped from the 809-foot tanker because a deck scupper pipe developed a hole in an area where the pipe travels through a fuel tank. Tigani was carrying a load of crude oil at the time.

“They were in the process of offloading product,” said Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer First Class NyxoLyno Cangemi. “The scupper pipe had developed a crack, and the bunker fuel started leaking. The crew noticed there was this mixture going into the water.”

Cardiff Marine Inc., based in Amaroussion, Greece, is Tigani’s manager. The ship is owned by Avrer Shipping Co. Ltd. of Malta, said Capt. George Bogris, Cardiff’s manager of safety, quality and environment.

The vessel berthed at Citgo’s terminal Oct. 9 at 0300. At 1050 the next day, a member of the deck watch noticed a small quantity of fuel gathering in the water at Tigani’s starboard quarter. The master informed Citgo terminal officials, immediately stopped offloading, put the response plan into effect and ordered the sounding of cargo and fuel tanks.

At 1100, someone observed that the fuel was escaping through the deck scupper outlet. Realizing that the scupper pipe travels through the No. 2 starboard fuel tank, the master instructed the chief engineer to transfer all fuel from that tank to other tanks, the company said.

A boom was already in place around the vessel, Cangemi said, because that’s a requirement while ships offload petroleum products along the Delaware River. The boom contained most of the spill, he said.

By 1405, a Flo-Bloc test plug was installed at the deck scupper outlet, Cardiff Marine said. By 1425, the plug was damaged by the heated fuel and the leak began anew. A second plug was fitted a half-hour later, and the leak stopped for good.

After Tigani’s holds were decontaminated Oct. 12, the Coast Guard sent the tanker to the Marcus Hook anchorage.

Cangemi said booms were also deployed at the mouths of nearby Woodbury and Mantua creeks. There was “very, very minimal damage” to the environment, he said. Responders, including contractor Clean Venture Inc., recovered a total of 2,300 gallons from the river.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reported that small amounts of the fuel were spotted on the shoreline within a half-mile from the Paulsboro terminal, which is about five miles south of Philadelphia.

Cardiff’s incident report specifies that the company will inspect other scupper pipes and is considering rerouting scupper pipes that travel through fuel holds. Tigani was built in 1991.

“Two more vessels in the fleet, with deck scupper pipes passing through fuel tanks, have been instructed to arrange inspection of such pipes at first opportunity,” Cardiff’s report said.

“Our technical department is investigating possibilities to have the scuppers rearranged so that no scupper pipes pass through fuel tanks,” the report said. “Any such pipes that remain will be thoroughly inspected and UT measurements will be made at each docking.”

By Professional Mariner Staff