Slack in mooring lines may be to blame for dock bollard puncture and Delaware oil spill

A member of Clean Venture examines the fuel oil spill on the water’s surface in the Port of Wilmington on March 12. The oil leaked from the 623-foot ro-ro vessel Honor after the ship collided with the pier. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer 3rd Class Crystalynn A. Kneen)

A car carrier’s hull was punctured by a dock bollard at Delaware’s Port of Wilmington, spilling 6,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Delaware River.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the 623-foot vessel Honor may have had too much slack in its mooring lines when the accident happened March 12.

The captain of Honor reported at 0840 that a fuel tank was pierced and #6 fuel oil was leaking into the water. The ro-ro vessel was docked in the harbor near Pier 1 at the time.

A containment boom was placed around the vessel and an additional protective boom was placed across the adjacent Christina River. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jonathan Lindberg said the ship’s fuel was transferred to another tank. The hole in the tank was repaired with a weld.

Although the incident is still under investigation, Lindberg said that Honor had been moored to the wharf with excessive slack in its lines. The effect of tide, wind and slack lines caused Honor’s overhang to make contact with the mooring bollard, piercing the hull.

“The lines were not tight,†he said, noting that the result was “lots of leeway.â€

Honor is operated by American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier LLC, based in Park Ridge, N.J. Company spokesman Eric Ebeling said that damage occurred near the bow of the vessel and was repaired, but said that he could not comment any further since the accident is under investigation.

Approximately 30 combined personnel from agencies including the Coast Guard and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control responded to the spill.

Free-floating oil was removed by Clean Venture, a private-sector spill cleanup contractor. Helicopter flights verified that the spill did not migrate beyond the containment boom. Other cargo operations in the port were not impeded by the spill response activity. The Coast Guard said the cleanup lasted about two weeks.

Once the Coast Guard approved the repairs to the vessel, Honor was permitted to depart the port, Lindberg said.

A spokesperson for the Port of Wilmington would not comment on the incident and directed all questions to the Coast Guard.

John Snyder

By Professional Mariner Staff