At 1640 on June 23, 1989, the Greek Tank Ship World Prodigy
ran hard aground on Brenton Reef near the entrance to Narragansett Bay,
approximately four miles south of Newport, Rhode Island.
The vessel was loaded with 8.2 million gallons (over 195,000 barrels) of No. 2 home heating oil.
The grounding tore a 200-foot gash in the hull of the ship,
ruptured 9 of the 23 cargo tanks
and released approximately 6,900 barrels of oil into the waters of Rhode Island Sound.
Immediately before the accident,
the vessel was observed operating out of the shipping channel,
closer to the Brenton Reef than it should have been.
The accident occurred during daylight hours with partly cloudy skies,
calm seas, winds NW at 5-10 knots, and visibility 6-8 miles.
The response began immediately.
Seven rescue ships and several USCG vessels with boom
arrived at the scene of the grounding within eleven minutes.
The USCG Atlantic Strike Team (AST) was activated within thirty minutes.
The pre-designated Federal On-Scene Coordinator (OSC)
was the Captain of the Port (COTP), Providence, Rhode Island.
The OSC assumed federal responsibility for the spill response within two hours,
following the determination that the incident was beyond the control of the ship's captain
and the owners, Ballard Shipping of Monrovia, Liberia.
A $50,000 ceiling on the pollution fund was established,
which was later raised to $3.4 million.
The OSC immediately hired cleanup contractors and requested boom and other cleanup equipment.
The COTP Providence established a 500 yard safety zone around the grounded vessel.
The vessel was surrounded with three layers of containment boom.
The remaining cargo onboard was offloaded into barges beginning June 24.
The area within the boom was cleaned with skimmers beginning on June 26.
The booms remained in place until the vessel was cleared by the OSC to sail on July 2.
The T/S World Prodigy arrived at New York Harbor on July 3.
No. 2 heating oil has a minimum API gravity of 30,
and a pour point between -6 and -27 degrees C.
Approximately 6900 barrels of No. 2 heating oil were released into Rhode Island Sound.
No. 2 oil is a light refined petroleum oil
that floats on the water surface and quickly evaporates.
This rapid evaporation was critical to the minimal overall environmental impact.
The oil did not emulsify and was recoverable with pumps.
Favorable weather, winds, calm seas, warm air and warm water temperatures
were all factors in the success of the cleanup efforts.
The rate of evaporation of the oil was maximized,
while the warm weather provided good working conditions
for personnel undertaking cleanup and salvage operations.
The impacted areas of Narragansett Bay were predominantly
high-energy rocky headlands and coarse sand and gravel beaches.
This resulted in little deep penetration of affected shorelines by concentrated oil.
Impacted areas such as Mackerel Cove and Hull Cove
were flushed during regular tidal cycles and subsequent storms,
minimizing the environmental effects of the spill.
By 2015 on June 23, roughly 3.5 hours after the incident,
the vessel was encircled with two layers of protective boom;
a third layer was in place within eight hours.
The oil contained within the boom was removed using skimmers and vacuum equipment.
Cleanup inside the boom began at 1600 on June 25 and was completed with on June 27.
A dive survey was conducted at 1745 on June 23 to determine the extent of damage to the vessel.
At this time, the T/S World Prodigy was settling rapidly
and there was a possibility that the vessel could break up and sink.
The dive surveys videotaped the damaged hull,
which showed longitudinal dents running 150 feet on both sides of the vessel,
as well as a hole large enough for a diver to enter.
By 1030 on June 24, the offloading operation was underway.
The vessel was stabilized and the danger of sinking eliminated.