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Oil Tanker Leaving for S.D. Repairs

June 21, 1989|H.G. REZA | Times Staff Writer

The oil tanker Exxon Valdez may be towed out of Prince William Sound in Alaska today to begin its journey to San Diego, where the vessel that caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history will be repaired, senior Coast Guard officers said Tuesday.

Coast Guard Capt. Jack Scarborough, captain of the Port of San Diego, and Coast Guard officers in Valdez, Alaska, said that initial plans called for the giant ship to be towed away on either Tuesday or today. However, officials in Valdez said the paper work for Coast Guard approval for the tow was not complete on Tuesday.

Scarborough said the Coast Guard is preparing for the ship's arrival at the National Steel & Shipbuilding Co., where it will be in dry dock for about nine months. Nassco built the Valdez in 1986. The shipyard was awarded the $25-million contract last month.

Scarborough said he will meet with San Diego city officials Thursday to brief them on the precautions that the Coast Guard and Exxon are taking to assure that the Valdez will not pose a pollution problem while in transit and when it arrives in San Diego Bay.

'Extra Precautions'

"There will be more precautions taken for this ship than for one coming in here with a load of natural gas," Scarborough said. "We're doing this primarily because we want the public to be satisfied that we are taking extra precautions to look out for their interest."

Last week, Exxon officials said that the tanks and exterior of the Valdez have been cleaned of oil and oil residue. Nevertheless, Scarborough said the Coast Guard plans to conduct aerial surveillance of the vessel while it is under tow to ensure that it is not leaking oil.

"But the key fact here," he said, "is that the vessel is now empty and no longer a pollution threat. . . . We're not looking at her as a major pollution threat. Our main concern now is more of navigational safety; that she gets here without breaking up. . . . Our engineers from Washington (state) have done an inspection and declared her safe for ocean transit."

Exxon says a hull area 700 feet long and 100 feet wide needs repair. Also, the hull has a hole that measures about 20 feet by 15 feet, "large enough to drive a truck trailer through."

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