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Precis File
SHIP NAME: Ocean Eagle KEY: NUM. ENTRIES: 6
source SIS83
type C
volume
material
dead
link

Pilot went into channel in heavy swell, bumped three times, started leaking, later broke in two, scuttled


source SIS83
type A
volume 83400B
material Light Venezuelan crude
dead
link

On the morning of March 3, 1968, the tanker Ocean Eagle grounded in the harbor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The vessel broke in two several hours after the grounding, spilling Venezuelan light crude oil into the harbor. The aft section of the vessel drifted farther into the harbor and grounded, while the forward section was anchored in place. Three days later, U. S. Navy tugs tried to tow the forward section out of the harbor. Adverse weather hindered the operation, and eventually drove the forward section farther into the harbor. On March 10, the forward section broke open in heavy seas and released more oil into the water. By the first week of April, both parts of the tanker were lightered and towed out to sea where they were sunk.

Over 70,000 barrels of oil spilled into the San Juan Harbor. A slick one inch thick covered most of the harbor. Approximately 16 miles of Condado beaches were oiled.

Representatives from the USCG, the United States Navy (USN), the Federal Water Pollution Control Administration, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (COE) arrived on-scene to assist in the response. Spill response included the use of sorbents, dispersants, and mechanical and manual removal of the oil from beaches. The U. S. Navy began spraying the emulsifier Wyandot 20 on the slick on the afternoon of March 3. Emulsifiers were spread in Condado Lagoon on April 8. While the emulsifiers used were effective, it was not clear that they did not complicate the effects of the oil on the environment. Ekoperl, an absorbent, was spread on the slick. Murphy Pacific Marine Salvage Company, under contract to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, was responsible for the offloading and removal of the stern section, while the U.S. Navy was responsible for the bow. On April 3, the Navy finished lightering operations after recovering approximately 24,000 barrels of oil, and towed the bow off its grounding location. The bow was sunk eight miles from San Juan on the next day, but continued to leak some oil. On April 15, the stern section was towed off its grounding location, and was also sunk eight miles out to sea.


source OSIR
type D
volume 2MMG
material C
dead
link

Says location Puerto Rico


source HOOKE
type A
volume 3MMG
material C
dead 0
link

While inward bound with 19,233 tons of Venezuelan light crude oil loaded at Puerto la Cruz, the Liberian steam tanker Ocean Eagle ran aground and broke in two at the entrance to the harbor of San Juan, PR on March 3, 1968. All 33 crew members were safely taken off. According to the master, the vessel bumped the bottom three times during a heavy swell after which he dropped anchor and stopped the engines. Two hours later the tanker broke in two sections, the forward section remained at anchor while the after section drifted up channel and grounded. .... The first mate of the Ocean Eagle testified at the official inquiry that by mistake he had overloaded the tanker by 560 tons before she left Pueto La Cruz, seven inches beyond her tropical loadline.


source CAHILL_S
type D
volume 13000T
material C
dead 0
link

Cahill confirms the ship was 7 inches over-loaded. The weather at the time was partly cloudy with good visibility, NE wind BF 4-5, and a NE swell "estimated to be in excess of 15 feet". Ship arrived off the port at 0600. The channel into San Juan is straight but narrow. Cahill feels Eagle should have commenced approach inward from farther offshore to allow ship to set up on range, and abort if needed. They slowed to pick up pilot, but pilot was unable to get on board. Pilot said ship was doing about 4 knots. Helmsman claimed he could not steer, so ship throttle was momentarily increased, but then Captain decided best bet was to anchor. With the engine astern, the stern went to port, and the ship swung around to the right, which put her outside the channel. She was now pointed seaward. Pilot got on board, and they tried to get going toward deeper wate.. But the ship was pitching deeply, and hit hard three times in the trough. The third time broke her back. but before they could,


source CTX
type C
volume 83400B
material C
dead
link

CTX believes the most important cause of this spill in the nearly non-existent low speed manueverability of a single screw ship. If the Ocean Eagle had been twin screw, he could have made a proper lee for the pilot. And when he went astern, he could have done so without the ship's swinging around.

Cahill is probably right that the Captain should have started his approach from further offshore. But it is unlikely it would have made any difference, since the pilots were understandably loath to go any further offshore than where the Ocean Eagle attempted to pick the pilot up.

The USCG report apparently makes a big deal about the fact that the ship was 560 tons(7 inches) overloaded which increased her draft by 1.9 pct. This almost certainly increased her max calm water longitudinal stress by less than 10 pct. This is nothing compared to the stresses induced by pounding on the bottom in a 15 ft plus swell. The waves that she was experiencing were shorter period and smaller than her design wave. Her afloat stesses were still well below what the structure was designed to handle. The over-loading almost certainly had nil impact on this casualty. However, the first mate's story does not ring true. Ships rarely overload by this much by mistake.

This was a very high profile spill. As a result the pilots were forced to board farther offshore, making their job more difficult and even more dangerous. But no commentator including the usually perspicacious Cahill and the usually obtuse USCG pointed out the fact that the ship had nil low speed maneuverability, for which the obvious remedy is twin screw.

We need the channel depth. Apparently no NTSB report, but there must have been a USCG investigation.