Oil Tanker Back On The Beach

The bow section of the oil tanker New Carissa has drifted back to the Oregon Coast after a steel cable between the ship and a tugboat snapped in a storm Tuesday night 50 miles to sea.

It landed in the surf Wednesday morning at a beach on the central coast between Yachats and Waldport under high winds, heavy seas and a partly cloudy sky.

A spokesman from the Joint Information Center in Coos Bay said he expects another effort will be made to pull the bow, which still holds 130,000 gallons of fuel oil, from the beach with a tugboat.

The tug Sea Victory had pulled the bow 50 miles from shore when the massive tow line, 10 inches in diameter, broke.

A helicopter rescued four salvage workers from the bow section, CBS Affiliate KOIN-TV reports.

Pushed by 60- to 70-mph winds and 30-foot swells, the 420-foot bow drifted to the northeast and was within 30 miles of shore by midnight.

People onshore thought they finally had seen the last of the ship Tuesday when it began what was supposed to be a 250-mile journey out to sea, where it was to be sunk.

The 640-foot New Carissa ran aground Feb. 4 while waiting for a load of wood chips outside Coos Bay. Stuck in the pounding surf, it eventually started leaking some of its 400,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil.

Attempts to burn off the oil were partially successful, but the ship broke in half, spilling 70,000 gallons. State biologists have found more than 100 dead birds in the area; at least 48 died from exposure to oil.

The next plan to save the beaches was towing the bow out to sea. It moved at a glacial pace when pulling began Friday, but it eventually bulled its way through two sandbars to reach the open sea Monday night.

Bill Milwee, the salvage consultant to the ship's Japanese owners, said $10 million has been spent on the operation, with much more to come. The cost is being born by the ship's insurer.

The Oregon Division of State Lands probably will lead an environmental assessment of options for what to do with the 220-foot stern section still stuck on the beach near Coos Bay.