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January 18, 2006

Coast Guard secures drifting Maritrans barge

Maritrans Operating Company L.P. says the Coast Guard has secured the drifting double hulled tank barge M 92 off North Carolina's Cape Fear.

The barge will be towed to Wilmington, N.C. to be surveyed for damage.

The barge was set adrift earlier today after the seagoing tug, Valour, began taking on water and sank off the coast of Cape Fear, N.C. Six crew members were rescued alive, two others died and one remains missing.

Members of Coast Guard Sector North Carolina's prevention department hooked towing gear to the tug Justine Foss, with the help of a rescue boat from Station Wrightsville Beach. Justine Foss is the same tug that responded to the original distress call of the tug Valour's crew.

The three man Coast Guard team was lowered from a Marine Corps helicopter based in Cherry Point, N.C. The Marine helicopter was requested because of its proximity to the operating area.

While adrift, the barge hit and displaced the #16 red buoy near Frying Pan Shoals off Wrightsville Beach, N.C. The Coast Guard says it does not appear that the buoy caused any damage to the barge.

Valour was towing the Maritrans tank barge M 192 and began taking on water in heavy seas late Tuesday evening. The tug separated from the barge and reportedly sank around 2:30 a.m., Wednesday morning. The M 192, a double-hulled petroleum barge, is carrying 135,000 barrels of No. 6 oil. The company activated its oil spill emergency response plan to respond to the incident.

"We are deeply saddened by this incident and the related loss of life. Our primary concern is with the crew and their families," said Jonathan Whitworth, President of Maritrans Operating Company L.P.

Survivors include Captain Michael Lynch, 2nd Mate Jim Garnett, Assistant Engineer Lou Gatto, AB/Tankermen Earl Sheppard and James Hamilton and Cook Jay Templett.

The names of the deceased were not released until family members were contacted.

The Coast Guard is continuing its search and rescue efforts for the missing seaman with one fixed wing aircraft and two helicopters.

Maritrans Operating Company L.P. is headquartered in Tampa, FL, and operates a fleet of oil tankers, oil barges, and tug boats. Maritrans Operating Company L.P. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Maritrans Inc.