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March 9, 2009

Tanker takes a tilt off Texas

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Galveston reported Sunday that it was monitoring lightering operations on the 900-foot tank ship SKS Satilla, 65 miles south of Galveston, Sunday, March 8, 2009.

The ship sustained damage below the waterline, apparently after striking a submerged offshore drilling rig missing since Hurricane Ike.

At approximately 8:20 am Friday, March 6, the SKS Satilla crew reported that the tank ship was suffering an 8-degree port list due to an intake of water into the ship's ballast tanks.

The ship was subsequently stabilized by pumping water out of the ballast tanks.

Lightering operations began Sunday, and weather conditions permitting, operations are scheduled to be complete Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

The SKS Satilla is currently stable after sustaining damage to a large area along the port side of the ship's hull below the waterline. A remotely operated underwater vehicle contracted by SMIT Salvage retraced the tank ship's course to investigate the cause of the damage.

The underwater vehicle discovered a submerged mobile offshore drilling unit, the ENSCO 74, in the vicinity of the ship's location prior to the incident. The ENSCO 74 was reported missing after Hurricane Ike.

The unit's owner, ENSCO International, has been notified. It is planning to place a marker buoy at the location, and salvage the unit as soon as possible.

"Right now, we are achieving all of our objectives," said Cmdr. James Elliott, commanding officer of MSU Galveston.

"The vessel remains stable and the crew is safe. No oil has been released into the water. We plan to continue offloading the entire cargo of over 41 million gallons of oil to two tank ships, and then ensure the damaged tanker makes it safely to a shipyard for repairs. The sunken mobile offshore drilling unit that we discovered today will be properly marked with a buoy to prevent additional accidents, and ultimately salvaged

Ensco International Incorporated (NYSE: ESV) said that ENSCO 74 reportedly is submerged in 115 ft of water approximately 65 miles south of Galveston.

ENSCO 74, a MLT Super 116-C jack-up, was lost and presumed sunk in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. At the time of the storm, the rig had been located in approximately 230 feet of water 92 miles from shore in South Marsh Island Block 149.

ENSCO conducted extensive aerial and sonar reconnaissance following the storm but failed to locate the rig.

Ensco says that it maintains insurance policies for removal of wreckage and debris. Ensco also maintains liability policies which it believes will provide coverage for losses resulting from the incident for which Ensco may have responsibility, including any environmental issues, subject to a $10 million self-insured retention.

Ensco said it had not had an opportunity to conduct an independent investigation of the facts surrounding the incident.

This is the second recent lightering incident involving MSU Galveston. Last month the technique was used to refloat the 800-foot tank ship Yasa Golden Dardanelles which grounded Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 22 miles off the Galveston coast.


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