Stalled LNG tanker towed to sea for repairs
The 992-foot-long disabled Spanish tanker that found itself without power in 20-foot seas off Chatham early Monday was towed to a point seven miles off Gloucester Tuesday night for repairs.Despite the effort of the report to make it sound as if doom was averted, no one was ever in any danger:
According to the Coast Guard, the Catalunya Spirit lost power at 3 a.m. Monday about 35 miles east of Chatham. The ship was headed to Boston from Trinidad and Tobago.
Technicians from the ship's owners, Teekay LNG Partners of Vancouver, British Columbia, and marine inspectors from the Coast Guard were dropped to the ship from a helicopter Monday afternoon. They believe a computer that helps maintain constant pressure coming out of the ship's boilers might have failed. The boilers power the steam turbines that drive the ship. The boilers are fueled by burning some of the natural gas onboard.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy engineering professor James McDonald found it hard to believe there was no backup system to manually control the boilers. But the vessel and its crew of 29, drifting powerless at nearly 4 mph to the southeast, notified the Coast Guard at about 6:30 a.m. Monday that they could not resolve the problem and needed help.
In a telephone conference call yesterday, Cmdr. Howard Shaw of the Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba said seas were extremely rough when they found the Catalunya Spirit at 3:40 p.m. Monday. He said 30- to 40-knot winds and 18- to 20-foot seas were pounding the vessel and there was some concern about it drifting toward shallows on Georges Bank.
"What was critical was the tugs getting there," he said.
Tugs arrived late Monday night, with at least 30 miles before the ship encountered any shallow water. Four tugs towed and escorted the tanker north Tuesday at about 4 mph in light seas and wind, and the flotilla arrived at a safe anchorage seven miles off Gloucester Tuesday night.
By 11:30 a.m. Monday, the Coast Guard initiated an emergency plan that brought together federal and state agencies responsible for potential pollution and security risks and to coordinate the tanker's towing. Coast Guard spokesman Keith Hanley said there are always tugs available along the New England coastline, ready to help stricken vessels.