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January 18, 2006

Maritrans tug sinks

Maritrans (NYSE: TUG) says that at approximately 11:50 p.m. on January 17, 2006, the Maritrans tug Valour, towing the Maritrans tank barge M 192, began taking on water in heavy seas approximately 20 miles east of Cape Fear, North Carolina. The tug separated from the barge and reportedly sank around 2:30 a.m.

Maritrans says two of the 9 man crew are known to be deceased, one is missing and six have been rescued. No information is currently available on the cause of the incident.

The M 192, a double-hulled petroleum barge, is carrying 135,000 barrels of No. 6 oil, and is adrift. No damage has been reported to the barge. The company activated its oil spill emergency response plan to respond to the incident. The barge was destined for Corpus Christi, TX.

The U.S. Coast Guard was notified and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter was dispatched to the scene. Other vessels in the vicinity are rendering assistance.

A Coast Guard release says the Valour, "radioed the Coast Guard for help at approximately 11:30 p.m. yesterday because they had a crewmember fall overboard, and their vessel was taking on water. A Dolphin HH-65 helicopter from Air Facility Charleston launched to assist, and upon arriving on scene they rescued one crewmember and transported him to Myrtle Beach Hospital, S.C."

The remaining eight crewmembers stayed with the struggling vessel until the Justin Fox, a 125-foot tugboat in the area, arrived on scene. The Justin Fox vessel was able to rescue five more crewmembers before the Valour sank in the 15 to 20-foot seas and gale force winds.

The Coast Guard and Good Samaritan vessels are still searching for the three remaining crewmembers and the 500-foot barge.