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March 3, 2004

Side scan sonar will be used to check Bow Mariner

The U.S. Coast Guard is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship RUDE to check the condition of the tanker BOW MARINER, which exploded and sank Saturday night.

The RUDE assisted with the search and recovery of TWA flight 800 in 1996 and the search and recovery operations of John F. Kennedy Jr's aircraft and Egypt Air flight 990 off the Massachusetts coast in 1999.

The 90-foot Norfolk, Va., based RUDE is equipped with side scan sonar technology and will sweep the area where the BOW MARINER sank to acquire imagery of the condition of the vessel.

BOW MARINER, a Singapore-flagged chemical tanker, was en route from Linden, N.J., for Texas City, Texas, carrying a partial cargo of 3.2 million gallons of industrial grade ethanol.

The Coast guard said yesterday that West winds in the area were carrying spilled fuel oil further out to sea and the U.S. Weather Service predicted those winds would continue for the next three days.

The cargo of ethanol spilled into the water has dissipated and is not recoverable, says the Coast Guard. Additional amounts of ethanol may still be in cargo tanks on the sunken ship. Portions of the fuel oil have clumped together into tar balls and mats floating on or just below the surface in quantities too small to recover. The clumped oil is breaking apart into smaller non-recoverable pieces with the wave and wind action.

The Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) oil recovery vessel VIRGINIA RESPONDER remains on scene in the event that oil conditions change and oil recovery becomes necessary. Clean Harbors has been contracted to recover floating debris in the area of the sinking that may pose a hazard to navigation.

The environmental impact and possible salvage operations are being managed from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Norfolk, Va., by an inter-agency Unified Command which includes the Coast Guard Captain of the Port, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, Maryland Dept. of Environment, and representatives from the vessel owners and managers. Overflights of the area with contracted aircraft will continue to monitor the progress of the oil sheen and locations of pooled oil.

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