Friday, January 26, 2007

Distressed Chinese Cargo Ship Having Water Removed Off Oahu

The U.S. Coast Guard was pumping water out of a Chinese cargo ship about a mile off Oahu near the Honolulu airport on Thursday after a rough storm led to the formation of a more than four-foot-long crack in its hull. The 485-foot Tong Cheng was en route to the Caribbean carrying plywood, steel and a limited amount of ammunition when the water forced it to make an unscheduled stop in the islands, said Coast Guard Lt. Nikki Samuel. The Coast Guard kept the ship about 70 miles off shore for several days after receiving the distress call last week to make sure the ship wasn't leaking fuel that could contaminate the Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument. Samuel said she didn't know what kind of ammunition was on board, but it wasn't unusual for general cargo ships to carry such freight.
The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut (WLB 205) monitors the Motor Vessel TONG CHENG
The Coast Guard and U.S. Customs officials received a detailed manifest for the ship's cargo and were still reviewing it. The ship also reported carrying diesel engines and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) resin. U.S. Navy divers have already patched the crack to stop the leakage, but the ship plans to have additional work done in Hawaii before returning home for permanent repairs. The ship was to enter Barber's Point harbor on Oahu's western shore once enough water has been removed and it is light enough. It is not clear how long the Tong Cheng will have to stay in the islands. Samuel said the Coast Guard would conduct a safety inspection of the vessel before it leaves. The ship, which has a crew of 26 people, all Chinese citizens, is owned by the Shanghai Ocean Shipping Company, the Coast Guard said. The ship had been planning to stop in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean countries after passing through the Panama Canal.

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