U.S Coast Guard Investigate Oil Tanker Crash In American Samoa Port

CSC Brave smashed into purse seine vessel; no oil spill occurred

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 6, 2017) – The U.S Coast Guard is conducting an investigation into an incident last Thursday afternoon, where the oil tanker, CSC Brave, crashed into the rear of a purse seiner vessel docked at the main-dock area where fishing nets are repaired, near the Fuel Dock.

The incident, recorded on video by a person on the dock side, prompted the government to activate it’s oil spill response team, which later stood down after the all clear signal was given by the Coast Guard.

Lt. Kevin Whalen, with the local Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment unit, confirmed to Samoa News over the weekend that it has launched an investigation, which could take a few weeks to complete.

During a brief telephone interview late Saturday morning, Whalen said the investigation would include interviewing crew of the oil tanker as well as those on the dockside when the incident occurred. Asked if the Coast Guard had received video, such as the one taken by Frank Barron and shared on Samoa News Facebook page, he said “yes” and that the video and photos are included in the investigation.

Barron’s nearly three-minute video shows a lot of people on the dockside witnessing the oil tanker heading directly to the rear of the purse seiner and people could be heard yelling out that an incident was about to happen — and it did. A male voice is clearly heard on the video calling out “look out, look out” and the video shows the tanker hitting part of the dock.

Several men on the dock are seen and heard on the video screaming toward the oil tanker after the incident. It’s unclear at press time as to what damage was sustained by the purse seiner, which appeared to be pushed forward hitting another boat docked in front it.

Whalen declined to reveal preliminary findings as to the cause of the incident, but the investigation is ongoing.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Port Administration director Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele dismissed as “wrong”, allegations that the oil tanker “was pushed towards the dock-side area by our local tugboats” — which is the information cited in a photo caption of photos from the incident posted on the Samoa News Facebook page and has attracted a lot of criticism against tugboat employees.

“If the Tugboat had pushed the tanker towards the wharf, the Port would be facing a multi-million dollar suit,” Taimalelagi told Samoa News over the weekend. She said it was an “engine issue” with the oil tanker.

Another senior Port Administration official, who declined to be identified by name but spoke to Samoa News yesterday morning to address the allegations against the tugboats, said that based on Port information the oil tanker encountered an “engine problem” when preparing to dock and the incident had nothing to do with the tugboats.

The senior official also said that Port Administration has already or will be submitting its report to the Coast Guard, which is leading the investigation.

“Our engineer is conducting an assessment to determine the cost of damage to the wharf and it will be charged to the Tanker,” Taimalelagi said yesterday and noted that the area of the dock hit by the oil tanker was just 20 feet away from a large concrete structure on the dockside.

“If the tanker had hit that structure it would have been a huge, huge mess that would cost in the millions of fuel pollution in our harbor,” she added.

ASG Office of Petroleum Management said the oil tanker is a charter by U.S. based Sunrise Oil Company. Samoa News notes that Sunrise Oil is one of the two petroleum suppliers for American Samoa — the other one is Pacific Energy (PE), which is also the Terminal Operator that includes the ASG owned Gataivai Fuel Tank farm.

Upon receiving word of the incident, PE’s country manager Taulapapa Willie Sword, Terminal Operation manager Nick King, State on Scene coordinator Sione Kava and OPM project manager John Goeke activated the Terminal Emergency Operation Center (EOC) at the Terminal Building in Gataivai, where staff from the OPM office set up the EOC.

“This is not a drill was emphasized with the Notifications to activate the Terminal Spill Response Team and Terminal Fire Brigade getting ready to roll out oil spill and fire fighting equipment in case we have to move in,” Kava, who is also the petroleum officer with OPM, explained over the weekend the actions taken after they learned of the incident.

First responders from the team were immediately dispatched to the Fuel Dock while Clean Island Council of Hawaii (CIC), “our support OSRO (Oils Spill Response Organization) was informed to stand by in case the incident is proved to be beyond our local capabilities.”

Additionally, OPM director, Alfonso P. Galea'i was aware of the situation and he was kept informed via e-mail.  Also kept in the loop via email was Kevin Alameda, Sunrise Oil Company manager, based in San Diego.

An hour after the incident occurred, OPM’s first responders informed the EOC that the Coast Guard had given the “all clear”.

“We stood down as a response organization and shifted our concentration to Security of Supply because we were informed by the Coast Guard that there will be a delay in tanker off-loading of fuel,” Kava explained.

“OPM wants to make sure that we have enough inventory in our tanks to assure uninterrupted supply of fuel to the island,” said Kava, who added that King assured OPM that there is “enough supply on hand to assure security of supply to the island.”

“Thank God we lived another day with minimum damages to the infrastructure and still with plenty of fuel to keep our island energized,” he said.

The Samoa News
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