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Cleanup Resumes, First Mate of Grounded Tanker Arrested

June 8, 1990

BAYONNE, N.J. (AP) _ Cleanup crews labored to corral blobs of oil floating on the waters of the Kill Van Kull today after officials arrested the first mate of the British- operated tanker that spewed 260,000 gallons of heavy oil.

Authorities charged the first mate of the 811-foot tanker BT Nautilus with operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Kill Van Kull and the Arthur Kill, a second shipping channel between New Jersey and New York, have had four major oil spills this year.

The Coast Guard said the quick deployment of absorbent boom shortly after the accident at 5:15 a.m. Thursday contained nearly all of the No. 6 heating oil in the normally busy channel, which remained closed indefinitely.

About 300 workers, including 50 sailors, and six vessels from the Coast Guard, resumed cleanup operations this morning. Five skimmer boats cruised the channel collecting oil, and a special Coast Guard strike team brought in 10 small boats for maneuvering in small coves.

Football-sized blobs were found as far away as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, about three nautical miles from the spot where the tanker struck bottom as it was docking, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Paul A. Milligan.

Oil leaked for about five hours from one of the tanker’s 10 1.2-million- gallo n holds, the Coast Guard said. Divers found a gash about 30 feet long and 12 to 16 inches wide in the ship’s No. 4 tank, but the Coast Guard had not determined the cause of the rupture late Thursday night.

New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio called the spill ″inexcusable,″ saying it indicates that ″something is dramatically wrong with the way the petrochemical industry does business.″

The first mate, Gregory Frederick Geoffrey, 52, of Merkse, England, was released on $50,000 bail from police custody in Bayonne Thursday night. He pleaded innocent to state charges of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and negligent discharge of a pollutant without a permit.

Urine tests were conducted for the ship’s captain, identified by the Coast Guard today as Albert Ainscough, and the harbor pilot brought aboard for docking. Coast Guard officials had no further information about the crew.

Christopher Florentz, a spokesman for Attorney General Robert J. Del Tufo, could not say if Gregory used drugs or alcohol, or what led to his arrest about 4 p.m. Thursday.

″I believe he was the spotter, so he was up front,″ Florentz said. But Geoffrey’s lawyer, Richard F.X. Regan, said the first mate’s responsibility during docking was to remain on the forecastle, not to act as spotter.

″It appears that my client is really a scapegoat ... for what appears to be an accident,″ Regan said.

The Coast Guard said the cleanup team included guardsmen from Mobile, Ala., who were deployed on skimmer boats and vacuum truckers to shovel, rake and sop up the oil. About 27,000 feet of floating booms were already on the water.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Richard Rybacki said the tanker owner, Nautilus Motor Tanker of Gibraltar, has assumed responsibility for the cleanup. The tanker is operated by Bulk Tanker Management of London and registered in Hong Kong.

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