Tanker carrying gasoline additive runs aground in Delaware Bay, no cargo spilled

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating what caused a 599-foot tanker to run aground in the Delaware Bay near Salem, N.J., in June.

The Liberian-flagged tanker NS Stella grounded outside the main shipping channel at 0645 on June 8, the Coast Guard said.

The vessel, which was inbound, is owned by Novorossiysk Shipping Co., of Russia.

NS Stella was carrying a cargo of naphtha, a gasoline additive, from the Netherlands and was en route to the Sunoco Fort Mifflin terminal in Philadelphia and the Sunoco Eagle Point, N.J., refinery when the accident happened. A state pilot was aboard.

The double-hulled NS Stella reported that it was in the vicinity of the Baker Range Light and Salem Cove when it grounded in soft bottom. The Coast Guard said 21 people were aboard when the ship grounded.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Crystalynn A. Kneen said that at the time of the grounding all nearby aids to navigation were on station and working properly. She said that the wind was from the north at about 2 knots and visibility was three to five miles.

Prior to the grounding, a tug and barge were downbound in the river channel, said Mike Kaszuba, chief of the Investigations Division at Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. Kaszuba did not comment on whether or not the traffic and their passing arrangement were factors in the grounding.

NS Stella grounded approximately between the Baker Range Lighted Buoy 2B and Baker Range Lighted Buoy 4B, in an area just beyond a bend in the channel. Kaszuba explained that in the vicinity of the grounding – the Baker Range – the shipping channel is 800 feet in width. Neither tide nor currents were factors in the accident, he said.

NS Stella was refloated on the incoming tide at about 1145 under its own power. It was turned into the channel with the assistance of a tug.

Kneen said Coast Guard inspectors found no damage. After determining that all mechanical systems were working properly, the Coast Guard allowed the ship to proceed with its cargo. There were no injuries or pollution associated with the grounding. The cause was still under investigation in mid-August.

Officials at the Pilots’s Association for the Bay & River Delaware said they were unable to comment on the grounding. Novorossiysk Shipping Co. could not be reached for comment.

John Snyder

By Professional Mariner Staff