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PORT OF HUENEME : Ship's Grounding Under Investigation

January 10, 1992|LARRY SPEER

An investigation is under way to determine why a 594-foot military container ship ran aground as it entered the Port of Hueneme on Thursday morning, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The Gopher State, which is part of the U.S. Maritime Assn.'s ready reserve force, became lodged on a sandbar near the west jetty as it entered the harbor just after 6 a.m., said Linda Wadley, a spokeswoman for the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme.

Strong winds and high swells seemed to buffet the vessel toward the jetty, said Donna Kleeburg, co-owner of a boat that was docked in the harbor.

The sandbar probably saved the ship from hitting the rocks, Kleeburg said. "It was very, very close."

Two commercial tugboats refloated the vessel about 8:15 a.m. The ship continued into port and moored at 9:15 a.m., said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brenda Toledo.

Coast Guard personnel found no major damage to the vessel or any pollution resulting from the accident, Toledo said.

A further investigation into the cause of the accident, including interviews with the ship's crew, is ongoing, Toledo said.

Anthony Teromino, executive director of the commercial seaport at the Port of Hueneme, said Thursday's grounding was unusual. "We have nearly 200 vessels entering the port each year, and I've never seen anything of the nature of what happened with this vessel," he said.

The Gopher State--a crane ship that specializes in unloading crated materiel to other ships--was scheduled to pick up a load of freight racks bound for Charleston, S.C., said Marge Holz, director of public affairs for the Military Sealift Command.

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